The Islanders actually otuplayed the Devils for most of two of three periods, but the one period they didn't resulted in the only Devils goal, and the two periods where the Islanders held the edge resulted in nothing.
The result, all too familiar: The Isles were shutout for the sixth time this season, losing 1-0 and being stopped by Johan Hedberg 23 times.
The Devils have the best penalty kill in the league, but it was still frustrating to see the Islanders powerplay come up empty (0-4) and do nothing to help this epic scoring slump.
In line matching, the Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald pair faced Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise with Adam Hernrique all afternoon, and held them in check. (Having seen so much of his Atlanta days, it's always fun to "see" Kovalchuk be invisible.) The frequent checking of Frans Nielsen with Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner also played a big part in that success.
It was a fairly physical affair, with roughly 30 hits credited per team (Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic were credited with seven each by the magical fairy stat keepers) and David Ullstrom having some entertaining battles with his buddy Mattias Tedenby. Frankly, Ullstrom with Josh Bailey and yes, Brian Rolston looked alright today. Ullstrom isn't "there" yet, but he looks more prepared for NHL work than Nino Niederreiter right now so I don't mind seeing more of him.
The Islanders began well, mostly earned the three of the powerplays they were granted ... and promptly wasted them, managing all of two shots in the six minutes of 5-on-4. There is simply zero imagination with the powerplay right now. Predictable movement and no decisiveness in taking a shot except from the point when they've strung so many unthreatening passes together that the point man (usually Mark Streit, sometimes Brian Rolston) ends up just firing it.
The Devils have the best PK in the league right now and end up giving up less than one goal every 10 opportunities, so today was a tough one to judge by. But it didn't look any different from previous games.
Cam Janssen invited Micheal Haley to a faceoff fight early on, so they got their marathon of punch-trading on. Janssen is one of those guys who loves to fight, exists on the ice to fight and believes enforcers are an essential part of every game. So this engagement was no surprise. There was a lot of talking during the fight, and I'd bet you it was merely Janssen politely asking Haley if he wanted to keep going or if they were too tired to carry on. Janssen is known by a few fanbases as a cheap villain (which is debatable), but in fights he's pretty much a fair dude.
The Devils adjusted, or the Islanders didn't duplicate their first period effort, or it was just one of those periods. Whatever your rationale, the Devils tipped the ice the other way in the second, outshooting the Islanders 11-6 and scoring the only goal on a powerplay after a bad call. (Michael Grabner, who rarely takes a penalty, was called for a hooking in which he applied zero pressure and the "victim" played his body into a perceived "hook.").
On the goal, Adam Larsson's point shot broke his stick and fizzled into an accidental pass to Petr Sykora right in the upper slot, where he had time to set and beat Al Montoya with a very good stick-side shot.
The Islanders came out much closer to the effort and execution they showed in the first period. Several near-chances generated on the rush, but the Islanders looked like the pressing team that makes one too many passes or, in passing, has one too many bounces go against them.
On a late Devils powerplay, Michael Grabner intercepted a pass at the Isles blueline and won a breakaway, but was taken down, drawing a penalty shot. He actually made a pretty good move on the PS, but Johan Hedberg did very well to stay with him and stretch to stop Grabner's backhand deke.
It was actually Grabner's second interception-fueled chance: Earlier, he intercepted a pass at the Devils blueline, but Hedberg went all in with the diving pokecheck. Shortly before the Devils powerplay finished, Andrew MacDonald -- who faced Zach Parise's line all night -- drew a penalty by Parise. That Isles powerplay was a little better, but still no success.
Hedberg was quite good on several late opportunities the Islanders generated -- even the extra man with the goalie pulled created some offense for once. But between Hedberg's saves and several Devils shot blockers, it was not to be.
Montoya, refreshingly, was quite good (22 saves). Hedberg was just one save better.
Broadcaster Moment of the Night
Butch: "Isles have done well in day games. Maybe that's the secret: They need the early wake up call. ... I could never get into afternoon games. Just never felt like I was in gear until seven o'clock."
Howie: "That's because you were just getting in at six."
Butch: "Oh no, I'd never..."
Howie: "Especially when you were in L.A."
Butch: "No I couldn't ahh..."
Howie: "I think the statute of limitations is up now, you can [come clean]."
FIG Winners: No One
Because no one picked no one. Unbelievably, we have the sixth shutout of the season and since no one picked "No one" for the First Islanders Goal pick, the FIG standings remain the same.
These two teams do this again tomorrow, two hours earlier (1 p.m.), in some place call Newark. Maybe we'll even see an Islanders goal.