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Islanders 4, Devils 3 (OT): Two important points from a non-playoff team

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Kuhnhackl and Lee combine to give the Islanders two points after a strong effort was nearly derailed.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
The captain and his men.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Islanders entered the Prudential Center on a back-to-back, having played an exhausting 60-minute effort against the Avalanche at the Coliseum the night before. The Devils, meanwhile, hadn’t played since Saturday night.

However, the Islanders played their game for most of the night and, while they weren’t perfect at limiting the Devils some high-danger chances, they definitely got around the Devils’ defenders to record almost exclusively high-danger chances.

But hockey is a crazy game, and for a little while, it appeared that the Islanders’ recent run of offensive struggles and bad luck was going to doom them and that they were going to leave another game against a non-playoff team without points, despite a solid effort.

Thankfully, their luck turned late, via a deflection on a Tom Kuhnhackl shot and Anders Lee’s overtime winner; he seems to be heating up a bit, which would be good for us.

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First Period

The Islanders’ offense has struggled over the last week or so, including against these very Devils on Thursday night. So it was important to get a quick start, and they did. Just over three minutes in, Leo Komarov forced a neutral zone turnover and gained possession of the puck. He circled the net and found Matt Martin in the slot. Mackenzie Blackwood made the save but left the rebound for Casey Cizikas to push in. Nice play by Komarov to create the scoring chance.

Eerily similar to his goal on Thursday, P.K. Subban found himself with plenty of room and a wide lane to shoot, so he fired a slapper that blew past Thomas Greiss to tie the game. Michael Dal Colle didn’t really get close enough to prevent Subban from getting the puck and Dobson got a little tangled up chasing Miles Wood, who gave Subban the pass.

The Isles got the lead back shortly thereafter, and tonight it was Jordan Eberle getting off the schneid (hopefully). Damon Severson stole it from Eberle in front of the net and went behind his own net, but Brock Nelson put pressure on him and forced him to make a pass directly to Eberle back in the slot. He didn’t even hold it, he just snapped his wrists and it went in.

Good period overall, as the Islanders got a ton of chances down low but gave up a couple chances down low themselves.

Second Period

The Islanders played another good period, but in a familiar way, they couldn’t convert any of their chances. And then, Nico Hischier did some first-overall things and tied the game up with about a minute and a half left in the period.

He carried the puck around the offensive zone with Mathew Barzal chasing him all the way. Hischier pulled up at the bottom of the circle near the crease and Barzal got turned around, giving Hischier enough time to fire a backhand through some net-front traffic and in.

The teams played over eight minutes in a row without a whistle, and the pace was exciting. But it was counteracted by three TV timeouts in a span of three minutes.

Third Period

The fear when giving up a goal late in a second period is that the scoring team comes out flying to start the third period. That was not the case tonight, as the Islanders had the first four shots on goal and were leading in shots-on-goal 35-20 at one point, but they still couldn’t score and conceded the lead for the first time that night when Greiss took a hooking penalty, the game’s first (called) infraction.

The Devils entered the night with the second-worst power play in the league, but they looked damn good skating around the Islanders penalty kill. Hischier skated behind the net and Greiss followed him around the back too slowly, such that when Hischier fed Kyle Palmieri for a one-timer at the top of the circle, Greiss was just getting over and wasn’t set. Palmieri’s shot snuck in short side.

The frustration stemming from the Isles’ recent dearth of offense had me feeling like we were doomed to lose in regulation to the last-place team again, but thankfully Tom Kuhnhackl was there to save the day. Dal Colle atoned for his weak defensive play on the first goal against by stripping the puck from Blake Coleman and passed it to Kuhnhackl at the point. Kuhnhackl teed it up and his shot caught the stick of Severson and passed by Blackwood with under six minutes in regulation.

New Jersey tried furiously to end this in regulation. At one point, Dobson was stripped by Coleman with only the two of them in the offensive zone with Greiss, but Greiss didn’t allow the puck past him on that chance or any of the other ones the Devils had and we went to overtime with a point secured.

Overtime

The first two and a half minutes were controlled almost entirely by New Jersey, though it only resulted in two shots on goal for them. Still, some sloppy play nearly gave the Devils opportunities to finish the game, but Greiss stood tall and once the Islanders finally gained control of the puck, they didn’t let it go much.

Some back-and-forth and some tussling had bodies and sticks flying all over the ice and Barzal, Anders Lee, and Devon Toews had a three-on-one chance against Subban. The slow-developing play allowed another Devil to get back into position, but Lee’s rocket of a wrister beat Blackwood and the Islanders got the extra point.

Thoughts

The Islanders were excellent in the first two periods of the game and just couldn’t convert on their chances. They were even playing really well in the third, giving them nearly five-and-a-half periods of strong hockey in two consecutive nights. It was only after the Devils took the lead that it seemed the exhaustion from playing two hard-fought games in two nights caught up with them. Glad they still pulled out the win.

  • Tom Kuhnhackl’s tying goal, his third in just over a week, was huge and secured at least one point against a non-playoff team, something the Islanders have struggled to do. Anders Lee’s goal secured the extra point, and the Isles got four huge points out of their back-to-back to take into their three-day break.
  • Speaking of Lee, hopefully scoring the game-winner two nights in a row sets him off on a long roll through June. It would be nice, too, if Jordan Eberle’s goal tonight set him off on a similarly long roll. Now if we could just get Anthony Beauvillier, who missed on a breakway in OT, rolling...
  • Good “Let’s Go Islanders” chants at the Rock tonight, and a couple instances of the Josh Bailey song. Love the road presence.

Up Next

The Islanders don’t play again until Saturday, when they’ll host the Boston Bruins at the Barclays Center, their only game in Brooklyn in the month of January. It’s a 7:00 p.m. start. They’ve beaten the Bruins once already, and they’ll have three days to prepare for them this time around.