Missing their captain and franchise player John Tavares, the New York Islanders came back from a 2-0 first-period deficit on Halloween afternoon to force extra time, where they conceded the bonus point to the New Jersey Devils in a shootout.
The Isles were disturbingly inactive in the first period, the Devils returned the favor in spades in the third. Once again special teams were key for the Islanders, who tied it at 2-2 in the second period with a power play goal from Anders Lee and a shorthander from Frans Nielsen.
It goes in the books as 3-2 to the Devils, who are making a case to replace the Blue Jackets as the Metro Division's fourth threatening team this season.
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Things That Happened, We Think
- Tavares was a surprise absence for this early afternoon game, with the Islanders only announcing that the "reason" would be given after the game. Most assumed some kind of illness (and that's indeed what was said after the game), what with Jaroslav Halak and Tavares buddy Ryan Strome both missing Thursday's game due to sickness.
- With Strome back in the lineup and Tavares out, the "Kid Line" from last season was reunited. Strome saw time at center with Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, though Nelson took most of the line's faceoffs. Josh Bailey, previously on Tavares' wing, reunited with Kyle Okposo and Nielsen.
- Missing their captain or disjointed from the afternoon start or just plain being "not fully invested," whatever the reason the Isles started the game very lethargically and paid for it.
- The Devils scored twice in the first period, John Moore converting a broken "poor battle level" play in the goal crease at 2:51, and Bobby Farnham sniping a great shot after a Barclays-esque rebound off the endboards from Stephen Gionta's wide shot.
- But the special teams continued to excel and got the Isles back into the game. Anders Lee out-muscled Adam Larsson in the crease at the end of a power play that carried over from the first period.
- Ten minutes later, Frans Nielsen completed a breakup of Devils passing at the Isles blueline and streaked down the right wing. His laser went over Cory Schneider's near-post shoulder to tie it 2-2.
- That was how things stood going into the third period, though the Isles penalty kill had to come through again after Jordin Tootoo pulled out all the stops to draw a penalty on Marek Zidlicky in the final seconds of the second period.
- On the play, Tootoo grabbed Zidlicky's stick and hand, then pancaked himself in an elaborate display that looked quite a bit like Zidlicky was the aggressor...until you watched the replay and saw just how many patented tricks Tootoo, a renowned diver, executed. Tootoo had created a power play out of a meaningless last-minute dump-in; the hockey gods denied the Devils any power play satisfaction.
- In fact, the Devils recorded zero shots on that power play nor for the first 19:35 of the third period. The Isles controlled most of play throughout the final frame, but neither team broke through.
- The Isles also controlled the puck through most of overtime, though didn't truly threaten until play started to go firewagon in the final minute. The closest chance was another Nielsen shot from the right wing which trickled behind Schneider but was rescued -- twice -- by Damon Severson.
Barnes And Narrative Turning Point of the Game(TM)
With the Devils up 2-1, Adam Henrique had a gaping net with which to score an insurance goal. The Devils fans behind the Isles net stood in unison, arms raised...but the puck hid the side of the net. Not long after, Nielsen scored his shortie to make it 2-2.
With 3-on-3 overtime settling nothing, they moved on to the Isles' first shootout of the season.
Nielsen opened with a long, dragging forehand move around Schneider. Schneider, possibly expecting the dreaded backhand, still got over to block the shot with his stick. But the momentum carried it over the line.
Jaroslav Halak then made the first save, Kyle Okposo was stopped on a slow backhand, Jacob Josefsen tied it 1-1 on a slick forehand, Cal Clutterbuck was stopped, and Lee Stempniak and Josh Bailey each hit iron. Mike Cammallerri finished it by converting on a slow five-hole move.
The Isles are back home tomorrow night to the Sabres, then have a rematch with the Devils Tuesday, also in Brooklyn.