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Islanders 4, Devils 3 (OT): Barzal winner overcomes blown leads

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The Isles lost three one-goal leads, the last with 10 seconds left in regulation.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
Taking off.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Islanders gave up three one-goal leads but ultimately came out on top with a 4-3 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils in Newark. Mathew Barzal scored the winner on a breakaway 3:40 into the extra frame, after the Isles fell 10 seconds short of a regulation win.

The result ends a mini-slump for the Isles, who’ve looked bad in their previous three games (1-2) and didn’t exactly look stellar this afternoon, though they appeared to clean up some of the mess from the last two losses.

Still, they wouldn’t have been in position to win without Thomas Greiss, who was outstanding in making 39 saves. This game could’ve easily gone a different way if not for Greiss, so the Isles still have work to do to get their early Trotz Groove back.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | Corsica | HockeyViz]

Still dealing with some forward injuries and that recent poor play, there was another line remix.

First Period: A Frenetic Start

The opening shift made it seem like the Islanders could somehow duplicate or even worsen their ugly early performance Wednesday night at the Garden. Sloppy coverage and two golden scoring chances in a row forced saves out of Thomas Greiss.

But then the Devils showed they could out-slop the Isles, Andy Greene’s perplexing lackadaisical reverse leading to a Mathew Barzal interception that set up Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey for consecutive point-blank chances that Keith Kinkaid stopped.

The teams then settled down into more of the approach their coaches would want, while keeping up a fast pace on a post-Thanksgiving afternoon.

However, that was interrupted by a lengthy 5-on-3 the Isles had to kill after Thomas Greiss was flagged for putting his elbow up to protect a Miles Wood crease drive-by, which the Devils pest made a meal of. The Isles won the opening push of the penalty kill, but Leo Komarov was overzealous on his zone clear, opening up for a slapshot from his own zone that cleared the glass behind Kinkaid to draw a delay of game penalty and the 5-on-3.

The Isles survived the two-man deficit, with some key work for the atoning Greiss.

Jordan Eberle opened scoring at 7:24 with some heads-up work fishing for his own rebound and lifting in via backhand. Beauvillier was the helper, as his line with Barzal and Bailey continued to initiate well on the forecheck.

The Isles whiffed on a couple of power play opportunities of their own — one of them was half consumed by a five-man scrum in the corner with the puck squeezed against the boards by time-burning skates — so they reached the first intermission with just a 1-0 lead.

Second Period: From 2-0 to...1-1

The Isles looked to make it a 2-0 lead on an outstanding Bailey snipe, again with good work from the reconstituted killer B’s. But on video review Barzal, who’d initiated the counterattack with a takeaway on the backcheck, was proven to be a few inches offside when Beauvillier amde a curl with the puck at the blueline. Beauvillier fed Bailey, who beat Kinkaid stick-side on the inside of the post.

Alas, it didn’t count, and the Devils got an equalizer a few minutes later when Taylor Hall outworked everyone and located the puck around the net off a faceoff.

So at 11:48, it was a new game at 1-1. At 14:14, the captain restored the lead. Anders Lee started a sustained stretch of offensive zone pressure by bodying his way into winning a forecheck race for the puck. A few cycles and chances from the point followed before Lee fed The Dashing Valtteri Filppula behind the net, then stepped to the doorstep and banged home a quick Filppula feed in the millisecond between coverage by Travis Zajac.

The Isles escaped some late Devils pressure to again reach the intermission with a one-goal lead.

They also escaped what initially looked like a serious injury when play was stopped with Johnny Boychuk writhing on the ice clutching his leg late in the period. He returned for the third period; wouldn’t be surprise to hear a “day-to-day” for him, however, with two more games in the next three days.

Third Period: He’s ALIVE?! And yet...

The Devils came out in the third not to let things get away, and were quickly rewarded for some good opening shifts. Brian Boyle did the damage, deflecting a Blake Coleman shot from the point that was uncontested but for the four bodies positioned right in front of Greiss.

It was 2-2 at 2:43 of the third. It looked like the game could stay that way for the rest of the frame. But then...

Reports of Nick Leddy’s demise have been greatly...not exaggerated but perhaps premature?

Not that this is the kind of thing people expect from him on a nightly basis, but it was refreshing to see nonetheless: A straight-up, old-school Bobby Orr rush that began from behind his own net, carried the full length of the ice, with a shot and then converting his own rebound to give the Isles a 3-2 lead at 12:45.

Among the heart-pulsing moments that followed as it looked like the Isles might (but perhaps not deserve to) pull a regulation win off: A sure Devils goal going airborne and fluttering over the goal cage, hitting the back and dropping to the ice behind the net. ... Nico Hischier’s excellent seam pass for a Kyle Palmieri solo break-in with two Isles bodies flopped to the ice in his wake, but Greiss stuck with him to stop his deke. ... The usual frenzy of chances in the final two minutes with the goalie pulled, including multiple Greiss stops of redirections. ... An Anders Lee clear that could’ve ended it, but became a costly icing instead. ... The same by Cal Clutterbuck on the next faceoff. ... Scott Mayfield taking a Devils dump-in behind the Isles net, into dangerous territory, instead of a firmer clear attempt.

That last one is what preceded the Devils’ tying goal with 10 seconds left, a low-angle rebound batted out of the air and in by Marcus Johansson.

Overtime: How Barzal, how Barzal

The Isles had the better of chances in a back-and-forth overtime, with a few odd-man chances created that they just couldn’t quite get the handle on. Barzal, as usual, was the most dangerous player and he mostly made a lot of smart decisions leading to dangerous looks.

But the winner was pure speed and drive. Brock Nelson won a pokecheck at the Isles blueline that Barzal retrieved and was off to the races. Kinkaid stopped his initial shot but the Isles sophomore potted the rebound.

Harder than it could’ve been, but they got the two points.

Next Up

A busy weekend continues tomorrow night at home, when the Hurricanes visit Brooklyn. Then the Capitals will do the same on Monday night.