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Devils (a lot), Islanders (a little): And Frans Nielsen hurt, too

There's nothing to do but throw this one out. Frans Nielsen's departure (shoulder injury?) after just three shifts put the Islanders in an interesting three-plus lines mix that never quite worked out. And the Isles committed several errors while letting a 2-1 deficit turn into a blowout in a matter of minutes.

But I'll still say it: At 2-1 in the 3rd period, the NHL officiating crew did their part to advance this game toward farce, handing an absurd 1:50 5-on-3 to the Devils -- both calls were jokes -- then failing to whistle play on a Devils high stick during the ensuing attempted kill. One of the two clowns in orange armbands, Chris Rooney, also imagined that waived off Devils "goal" in the 2nd period. Nice work, if you can get it.

Game Sum. | Event Sum. | Recaps: | Isles | ILWT

Final - 11.28.2009 1 2 3 Total
New York Islanders 1 0 0 1
New Jersey Devils 0 2 4 6

Complete Coverage >

That officiating joke wasn't the story of the game by any means. But I save my rants about officiating for when a game was a win or a blowout anyway -- note that the Islanders whiffed on four PP opportunities, managing only two shots. When it's clear that blame for a loss does not fall on the hands of those who, uh, "manage" the game, I can get this off my chest:

I'm tired of seeing weak, 90-second-plus 5-on-3s handed to Islanders' opponents game after game after game. Today's was the worst of them all. This team gets no benefit of the doubt (nor its own lengthy 5-on-3 PPs, for that matter), and that is crystallized in Richard Park somehow being whistled for "2 minutes, defending" 11 seconds into that pivotal penalty kill. The "new NHL" rule enforcement -- something I heartily support -- still creates an ambiguous standard when a team is already short. Somehow, the Islanders consistently fall on the wrong side of that ever-shifting standard.

What followed barely needs recounting: Brendan Witt's stick was broken by a shot, leaving the Isles doing a 2.5-on-5. The Devils settled a rebound with a high stick yet play continued without interruption. Finally, Patrik Elias converted the 5-on-3 -- the first time a team has converted a two-man advantage against the Isles all season. After that, instant carnage.

The Islanders shouldn't have been caught pitying themselves in the ensuing frenzy when the Devils tacked on two more goals in the next 2:02. But I understand. Sometimes you just wonder what you have to do to get on the right side of one of the NHL's many nebulous standards.

Biron: Strong in Allowing ... Six Goals?

The biggest pity is that the 6-1 final score doesn't reflect how well Martin Biron played initially to keep the Isles within striking distance heading into the third. There were controlling moments for each side in the first two periods, but by the second intermission the Devils had a 26-19 shot advantage. By the end of the game, that was 42-23.

I mentioned before the game how Dwayne Roloson has received far more goal support than Biron, and today was no different. And after the 5-on-3 goal, pretty much the whole team collapsed and Biron was done saving their bacon.

Replacing Frans

With Nielsen out, the lines juggled a bit. Trent Hunter (20:00) and Richard Park (17:49) each had four shots on goal. John Tavares (22:40) and Kyle Okposo (17:44) had three apiece. Thanks to the two goals against in one minute in the third, those two plus Matt Moulson, Mark Streit and Jack Hillen were all minus-2 on the day. Carnage. [EDIT: Thanks to eagle-eye commenter BenHasna, who pointed out that the top line was not still on the ice for the fourth goal -- the fourth line had just come on instead. That affects the +/- on the day; will be interesting to see if the league changes it.

Power Play: Looking Ever Weaker without Weight

Again, the Islanders were handed their chances: Four powerplays, eight minutes ... two shots. In fact, they were outshot by the Devils in those situations, as the Devils put up three shots while shorthanded. The Isles powerplay has now fallen to 17.2%, ranking 24th in the league.

It's amazing how much Weight calms things down when he's on the powerplay point opposite Mark Streit. Kyle Okposo is much more of a "play with urgency" style of player, so he doesn't bring the same sense there. I'd like to see more of Jack Hillen in that role, actually. Of course, I'd like to see more of Jack Hillen anywhere, except for the penalty box, where he's been appearing regularly lately.

Speaking of Young Defensemen...

Andrew MacDonald: Plus-1 today, and still hasn't been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against. Yep, not even in today's 6-1, four-EV-goal-against trouncing. Interesting.

On the Bright Side?

At WebBard's prompting ... This is the Islanders' sixth loss by three or more goals this year. Four of those have been exactly three-goal margins. At this stage last year ... they'd actually lost only four by three or more (with two ugly blowouts). Difference? Last year, they were 10-15-2 for 22 points and in the middle of a 10-game winless streak that was about to include a 9-2 disaster in Pittsburgh. Today they're 10-10-7 for 27 points. That's progress ... I think.

Looked at another way, including the OTLs, 11 of their "losses" have been one-goal games. Last year they'd only had three one-goal losses at this point.

They've been healthier this year (though now add Frans Nielsen and Andy Sutton -- MRI on his groin -- to the infirmary), they appear to execute Scott Gordon's scheme better, and they don't as often have the meltdowns that they had today once the game was sealed. Overall, each game is more competitive, which is why the Islanders keep dancing around either side of the NHL's version of a quasi-.500 record.

That's progress ... I think.

Next Up: Atlanta

As Pepe Le Pew's intended would say: "Le pant, le pant." Whew, we actually have a few "off days," as the Isles don't resume play until Thursday in Atlanta. Which means I gotta get back out of "gameday, game recap" mode and come up with some new things to say. Wish me luck...