It definitely wasn’t the prettiest game to watch, and they probably should have played better, overall, against the Devils tonight. But the Islanders still left Newark with two points, albeit without the tiebreaking ROW - and they got there because of excellent goaltending from both teams.
Quick Start Vanishes in Thin Air but Some Solid Play Reappears
The Islanders had a bit of jump in the early going but after an odd man rush in which Brock Nelson and Anders Lee missed a pass from Jordan Eberle. Nick Leddy was up in the rush and when the missed pass went the other way, Adam Pelech was caught flat-footed and Kevin Rooney sniped his second goal of the season.
The Devils controlled play for the most part until a four-on-four resulted from a scuffle between Mathew Barzal and Blake Coleman - Coleman hit Barzal well after an offside whistle, and Barzal gave him a shove in the face for it. As Barzal skated out of the box, Nelson stopped a puck from getting past Thomas Greiss and it skirted out to Ryan Pulock. With Barzal waiting near the blueline, Pulock sent him on a breakaway with a gorgeous, tape-to-tape stretch pass. Barzal finished the breakaway with a beautiful backhand and the Isles tied the game at one.
They played a little better for the rest of the period, but it wasn’t a great one overall, and they wasted a power play gleaned from a trip that swiped away Valtteri Filppula’s feet on a breakaway - apparently, Filppula got enough of a shot off to nix a penalty shot opportunity.
Wasted Power Plays a Theme, Again
At even strength, the Islanders played a better period than they had in the first, but the score remained at 1-1 when the horn sounded. Cory Schneider, playing in his first game in two months after recovering from an abdominal injury, played well to keep the Devils in the game.
The Isles would be fortunate to have two power plays early in the second period, but they weren’t able to do much with them. They suffered, once again, from being too stagnant and stationary, even when Michael Dal Colle subbed in for Cal Clutterbuck.
Clutterbuck was injured after getting mauled in front of the net on the first Islanders power play of the period and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
Another Quick Start to the Period, and a Lack of Luck
The Islanders came flying out of the gate in the third, determined to get to Schneider early on and then hold off a weak New Jersey squad, and they almost did. The Devils’ goalie had to make a big save to stop a Josh Bailey backhand in the first minute and a half.
Not long after, Anthony Beauvillier and Devon Toews broke out on an odd-man rush. Beauvillier found Toews cross-ice and he was robbed of the opportunity to shoot by the hook of Damon Severson - if the penalty against Filppula wasn’t a penalty shot, this one absolutely should’ve been, as Toews was in the wind-up of his shot and didn’t get his stick on the puck. Butch Goring was beside himself with the call of penalty instead of penalty shot. The ensuing power play looked better than its predecessors tonight, but Schneider didn’t let anything through.
A late turnover in their own end forced the Islanders to the kill, Johnny Boychuk in the box for a penalty that likely saved a goal. The Devils had a lot of jump, looking to go ahead to give Schneider his first win in over a calendar year, but Greiss made some important saves of his own. The Isles flurried in the final two minutes but Schneider, perhaps out of sheer desperation, flopped around like a madman to keep the puck out of the net and send the game to overtime.
A Wild Affair, as It Always Is, in OT, and a Low-Scoring Shootout
The Islanders had the higher number of chances in the overtime period, but the Devils had a couple scary ones of their own, including the first one of the five-minute session and later on when Jesper Bratt narrowly missed the twine by hitting the post and crossbar.
The Isles, in particular, managed the puck pretty well - the Barzal-Beauvillier-Pulock and Bailey-Filppula-Toews units got off quite a few shots and when they didn’t have anything, they wisely carried the puck out to their own half of the neutral zone to prevent New Jersey from getting fresh guys on the ice. But the goalies prevailed, and to the shootout we went.
In the shootout, Greiss and Schneider kept it tight, although Eberle nearly scored as the Islanders’ first shooter, were it not for the crossbar. The only goal in the skills competition was from Bailey in the fourth round to give the Isles the extra point in the Metro Division race. The look on Schneider’s face afterwards honestly broke my heart, though I would have been more upset if they didn’t take two points from the lowly Devils.
Thoughts and What’s Next
Here’s the coach:
Heading back home with 2⃣points!— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 8, 2019
Trotz breaks down tonight's effort: pic.twitter.com/9wFeAmfYME
I thought the new line of Dal Colle-Barzal-Bailey looked pretty good tonight - Barzal looked energized by the new linemate and Dal Colle probably has more raw offensive talent than Beauvillier, if only by a little. Similarly, Beauvillier looked tenacious on the defensive-oriented line with Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, even if the numbers didn’t bare it out.
The Islanders’ power play remains fruitless, though, and the goals really haven’t been there since the All-Star Break, except for the Kings game.
The Islanders are hosting two matinees this weekend at Barclays Center: Saturday at 1:00 p.m. against the Colorado Avalanche, and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. against the Minnesota Wild. After that, their next home game will be their final one at Barclays Center this regular season: next Saturday, February 16 at 7:00 p.m. when the Oilers come to Brooklyn. They’ll visit the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and Thursday of next week before that game against Edmonton.