Robin Lehner had to make only 16 saves, with a Devils goal midway through the third period being the only mark to spoil what would’ve been a relatively easy shutout.
Even if the Isles hadn’t scored with regularity in the first, every period looked like a mismatch. The Devils are struggling mightily this year and are still without Taylor Hall, but the Islanders are almost scary when they play with this much methodical organization and attention to Trotz Details
First Period: Wounding them early and often
The Islanders built their lead with a goal every five minutes in the opening period. They were getting the bounces, the good shots, and just slowly tightening the noose.
It began with a deflection goal by Anders Lee — I thought Brock Nelson also got a piece on its way to Lee — off a point shot from Nick Leddy. Jordan Eberle had won the puck in the corner back to Leddy, continuing that line’s recent good chemistry.
Five minutes later, Michael Dal Colle scored his first NHL goal on a nice deflection after winning the puck in the corner and winning body position in front of the Devils net. Scott Mayfield was a little fortunate that his drive to the net deflected toward Dal Colle, but the 2014 first-round pick reacted quickly to put a nice and critical touch on the puck.
Eberle then made it 3-0 with one of his patented corner-painting shots from the faceoff circle, taking matters into his own hands after the Islanders were moving the puck around too passively on the power play.
Before and after the third goal, the Isles also killed two penalties with ease.
Unlike the Islanders, the officials from the get-go showed they were about to have an “off night,” to put it kindly. No conceivable standard for crosschecks, then random turns to log penalties, with a bonus of getting in the way of pucks that were headed on completely intuitive trajectories.
Adam Pelech was penalized for “interference” after this exchange:
Fortunately, there were no real consequences and the second half of the game could have been officiated with blindfolds on.
Second Period: Toying with your prey
The first period was at least close on the shot clock if not on the scoreboard, but the second period offered New Jersey no such consolation. The Isles’ really doubled down on their puck domination. They also out shot the Devils 12-4 in the middle frame, but the impressive thing was just how much they controlled the play and managed the puck.
Midway through the period, the Coliseum crowd was treated to a sequence where the Islanders rotated through two line changes during play while the Devils blueline pair of Sami Vatanen and Andy Greene were stuck out there, Vatanen for 3:15. No goal resulted — a couple of close tries from Vlatteri Filppula were the last before puck went out of play on the Devils’ counter rush — but the crowd shared its appreciation heading into a TV timeout.
The Islanders finished the period with a power play that carried over into the third period, and they very nearly decided to play out the period controlling the puck on the delayed call rather than push the play. Mathew Barzal’s errant pass into the Devils zone finally allowed New Jersey to touch.
Third Period: Going for the kill
No success on that power play, but Anthony Beauvillier drew a hook at the end of it so they started up another one. Again they had puck possession and some point shots but no close calls, other than Nelson forcing a glove save on his uncontested wrist shot from the slot.
Still, those two power plays meant they essentially burned four minutes of clock to start the period. Not much room for the Devils to get an early strike to provide a glimmer of hope.
The clock burning continued until seven minutes in, when a deflected point shot found its way through Robin Lehner, Greene getting credit for the final touch. Barzal had a breakaway with four minutes left that Mackenzie Blackwood stopped, and Lehner had to stop a counterattack immediately afterward.
Still, that was as interesting as the Isles would let it to get. On their way to an empty net goal by Lee, they were able to roll their lines and control the game with methodical discipline. That certainly helps their chances for the back half of this back-to-back.
Speaking of which, tomorrow is a big one — both for thematic and competitive reasons. It’s Barry Trotz’s first return to D.C., where the Islanders are nipping on the Capitals’ and Blue Jackets’ heels for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Yes, you read that right.