Marek Zidlicky returned from a one-game old-age/roster-rotation rest to score two goals against his former team as the New York Islanders breezed by the New Jersey Devils for a 4-0 win on an early Sunday evening. The Isles scored two goals in each of the first two periods to have the game comfortably in hand by the midway point, barring any nightmare scenarios.
Such nightmares never looked even remotely possible as Thomas Greiss earned his first shutout as an Islander with one of his lightest workloads (27 shots) of the season.
They extended their points streak to 10 games with a 8-0-2 record in that span, by far their best stretch of the season's first half. The penalty kill didn't have to go to work until two calls in the third period with the game out of reach, but they kept up their unblemished streak as well. And one more streak of sorts: This win makes the Isles 10-1-1 with Thomas Hickey in the lineup.
Hickey's partner, Zidlicky, got some extra reps in the third period as the Isles tried to set up a hat trick, but no dice: According to MSG, It remains 33 years since the last hat trick by an Islanders defenseman, and Zidlicky's pair was the first for an Isles blueliner since 2011.
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Back-to-Back, But Against a Wounded Opponent
The Devils were without Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique, while the Islanders were without injured Ryan Strome but otherwise had their preferred players (Cal Clutterbuck, Marek Zidlicky) back from injury breaks last night in Columbus. That and a good early start likely helped the Isles navigate a back-to-back situation where they played less than 24 hours before in Ohio.
The Islanders didn't score on their first power play, but they created a few good looks and chances and that work generated the first goal just as the power play expired. Continuing to move the puck between the point, the left wing and behind the net, the second unit (via Josh Bailey and Mikhail Graovski) set up Marek Zidlicky for a sizzler from the point that the Devils were accustomed to seeing back when he was on their side.
They would see it again before the night was up.
Quick heads-up work on a turnover in the Devils zone gave the Isles a 2-0 lead with Brock Nelson disrupting and then Kyle Okposo sending the puck just wide of the net where John Tavares tipped it in.
They had a fantastic chance to make it 3-0 with a four-minute power play at the end of the first period but failed. Brock Nelson, who suffered the high stick from Lee Stempniak to draw the double-minor, was set up on the doorstep, but in too tight to lift the puck over Cory Schneider's pad.
The Isles made it 3-0 12:12 into the second period after a good forecheck by the fourth line. Their play produced a point blast from Johnny Boychuk that went wide. But because it was a Boychuk shot it was hard enough to ring all the way around to Calvin de Haan at the opposite point. De Haan put it toward net, where it was deflected twice, first by Casey Cizikas and then by Matt Martin, the goalscorer.
In the final minute of the second, Zidlicky struck again. His second goal of the night came off of good work by the third line to gain and keep the zone -- first Nikolay Kulemin on a brilliant toe-drag that got him in, but not quite all the way around the Devils defense, then Thomas Hickey to carry down low and freeze the Devils while one player was without a stick.
The trademark Zidlicky blast made it 4-0 and all but settled things with 20 minutes left to play. The events of the scoreless third period never threatened to change that.
The Walk of Shame
Schneider "never had a chance on that one," to use the Butch Goring proverb. But he still suffered the result. I hadn't realized this yet, but at Barclays Center the visiting backup goalie perch is even more awkward than it was at Nassau Coliseum -- or awkward, at least, if you're pulled in the second period.
The perch is directly behind the net the Isles defend once, so Schneider had to skate the length of the ice and past Thomas Greiss' net in order to sit in goalie timeout.
If ever a goalie had good cause to cuss out his teammates...
The Isles play every other night from now through next Monday, part of a run of six games in 10 nights. So picking up four points against Metro opponents this weekend was of course the ideal way to start this busy run headed into the holiday break. Up next, the Panthers visit Tuesday before the Isles head out to Colorado and Phoenix before returning home to face the Ducks on Monday, Dec. 21.
Man, I Never Liked You
Five minutes into the second period, 2011-15 Devils teammates Adam Larsson and Steve Bernier fought after Bernier checked Andy Greene dangerously into the exposed boards at the Devils bench. The check looked brutal, though somewhat understandable as Greene turned his back late.
Regardless, Larsson initiated the obligatory fight (and took an instigator that canceled out Bernier's boarding penalty) in what looked like a genuine, "Oh, it's you...but still we need to fight" altercation.
They Said It
Jack Capuano on not getting too high, nor too low, with wins and losses:
"For me, even the score tonight — it’s how guys are playing," Capuano said. "It’s about habits. That’s what this game is about."
Capuano, on the overall effort:
"Overall, I was looking for a game that we got our defense involved. It's been a while since we've played well in back-to-back nights, a team here waiting for us for a 5 p.m. game. I give our guys a lot of credit."
"On playing back-to-back nights: "I've always said with this team since I've been around that they like playing. I think we're more consistent when we play a lot of hockey. Again I thought our guys were real good. We utilized all four lines. I let the guys play. We matched our defense against some of their lines. Griess made some big saves when he had to. Zidlicky was involved - I know he had a couple of goals there, and Hickey from the point. All our defense were active."
via Isles PR
Quote(s) of the Night
"Last night the Islanders opened a bottle of seltzer and got that nice fizz going. What you want to do is keep that fizz the next night, and that's what they did in the first period."
-- Stan Fischler, explaining to Shannon Hogan his "Seltzer Theory of Hockey"
Also on the MSG broadcast...
"That was my only one. They never called them back then. A player would have to shoot you before they'd award a penalty shot."
-- Butch Goring, explaining to Howie Rose that despite his speed, he only had one penalty shot in his career because the NHL used to be even worse about calling the "rule" book.