The Isles and Jean-Francois Berube came out on top, outlasting the Devils and Long Islander Keith Kinkaid for a 6-4 win to exact revenge after Saturday night’s loss in Newark.
The win returns the Isles to four points ahead of the Devils, but more importantly it ties them on points with the Boston Bruins (pending their game in San Jose later in the night) for the last wild card position in the East.
Neither goalie looked exactly stellar, but it was Kinkaid who was victimized most often and in ugliest fashion by Islanders players picking corners and the occasional gaping hole all night.
First Period: The low-scoring one
Given that context, not that it matters but the Devils struck first. Insta-pest Miles Wood opened scoring on the power play midway through the first period.
Casey Cizikas was called for an unfortunate tripping penalty — his stick got caught up in Jon Moore’s legs on a simple zone dump-in — and the Devils quickly capitalized. Wood found position ahead of Calvin de Haan at the top of the crease to redirect Taylor Hall’s pass while the rest of the Islanders braced for Hall to shoot.
It was almost 2-0 when Beau Bennett missed just agonizingly wide from the low slot off a feed from P.A. Parenteau.
Instead, Ryan Strome evened the score at 1-1 about five minutes later on a wild sequence:
After Jean-Francois Berube made a good, angle save on a Devils rush, the Islanders went back the other way and moved the puck around the zone. Dennis Seidenberg’s one-timer from the point hit either Anthony Beauvillier or his man in the low slot, then Ryan Strome swooped in off a line change and popped the puck neck-high past Keith Kinkaid, who was still trying to locate the rebound.
The Islanders very nearly took the lead on the next shift, but for Kinkaid’s sprawling, lunging glove save to rob Josh Bailey with an open net. They kept up pressure for most of the remainder of the period, but they reached the second frame still tied 1-1.
Second Period: It’s over, no it’s a game again
And that’s when the real chaos began.
Casey Cizikas grabbed a lead 2:44 into the second on a wraparound that was jaw-droppingly poorly played by Kinkaid. It almost looked like Kinkaid’s vision was distracted by the referee in the corner, as his focus seemed more in that direction than on the puck-carrying Cizikas, who easily slipped the puck between Kinkaid’s legs.
Ryan Strome added to the lead at 9:32 with his second goal of the night, capitalizing on a turnover inside the Devils blueline to beat Kinkaid short side.
Andrew Ladd also beat Kinkaid with a wrist shot from the right wing, looking off Stephen Gionta on a shorthanded 2-on-1 to make it 4-1. It felt like the rest of the night would be a cakewalk.
Yet the Devils weren’t going away quietly. They ramped up the pressure after the Isles’ fourth goal, and Kyle Palmieri converted on a sharp turnaround snap shot from the high slot just 1:22 after Ladd’s goal.
Joseph Blandisi cut the lead to 4-3 with 2:05 left in the period, with a shot from the right wing boards that deflected in front and caromed in over Berube.
Suddenly we had a game again, but it wouldn’t be long in the third period before the Isles had restored their three-goal lead.
Third Period: Okay, all good again
It started, in a way, at the end of the second. As John Tavares went after a rebound in the final minute, Adam Greene took the chance to take him down with a high hit. That drew a scrum of Islanders in protest, and a roughing penalty for Greene that would carry over into the third period.
Once the third started, the Islanders wasted no time cashing in that power play — 26 seconds, in fact — and in some sweet revenge, it was Tavares who got the tally.
Josh Bailey gained the zone and passed to Anders Lee in the high slot, who reached behind him to accept and feed Ryan Strome in the right wing circle, who slipped it back to Tavares in the slot. Tavares had very little room to get off his shot, but it was a sizzler short-side, probably the toughest-to-stop shot Kinkaid faced.
Just 34 seconds later, Jason Chimera made it 6-3 with another breakaway goal.
He blocked a Jon Merrill shot at the left point, then raced down the right wing and sniped past Kinkaid’s stick side.
An Andrew Ladd high sticking double-minor gave the Devils the chance to get back into it again, and Taylor Hall notched one on the second half of that power play on the only shot Berube would definitely want back. Hall streaked down the left wing but had very little room from a bad angle on Berube.
A few minutes later, Hall forced a good glove save out of Berube right after Hall got out of the penalty box, but the Isles allowed no further bleeding.
Weight: "It wasn't a Rembrandt."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 20, 2017
The game slowed to a slog the rest of the way, the only real theater being the Islanders trying to force feed an empty net opportunity for Strome to attempt completing a hat trick in the final minutes.
Now it’s off to Detroit on Tuesday, part of an epic nine-game string of road games. The Isles have not fared well on the road this season — indeed, it’s points in 11 straight home games including tonight that has helped resurrect their season.
"It was a good physical hockey game & it's a big win. Hopefully we can get together as a team & be the good road team I believe we can be." pic.twitter.com/86z4ZrUaPQ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 20, 2017
To be continued.