Ilya Sorokin drew back into the starter’s crease tonight in New Jersey, but Devils’ goalie Scott Wedgewood stole the show and the game. Two first period Devils goals stood as the game’s only markers and the Islanders fell to 3–2–0, unable to score in either of Sorokin’s two NHL starts.
Michael Dal Colle officially came off injured reserve and replaced Kieffer Bellows in the Islanders lineup on the third line. However, the lines were scrambled after Anthony Beauvillier suffered an apparent injury in the second period.
First Period: Devils Score Twice Late
The Islanders did not register a shot-on-goal until they went on the power play out of the first commercial break—Anders Lee took a high stick for the team. They occupied the Devils’ zone the entire power play and fired six shots on net, but Scott Wedgewood did well to hold off the Isles.
In the second half of the period, Sorokin went post-to-post to rob Miles Wood, who nearly potted a puck that bounced off the end-boards. That seemed to give everyone a little confidence in the new goalie.
The Islanders then spent extended time in the New Jersey zone, but Wedgewood stood strong against chances from the likes of Jordan Eberle. They recorded three consecutive shifts of solid offense, but failed to score.
Scott Mayfield took a penalty for hooking and sent the Devils to the power play, and the talented New Jersey offense went to work. 2019 no. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes, who struggled mightily during his rookie season but has come alive as a sophomore, took a cross-ice pass in the slot from Ty Smith and sniped the high far corner past Sorokin. The Devils struck first, 1–0.
New Jersey added another before the period ended. Nikita Gusev danced around Casey Cizikas and shot at Sorokin. He made the initial save, but the rebound popped out to the left. Nick Merkley battled an Islander away from the puck and Pavel Zacha picked it up and put it past Sorokin on his short side. The Isles trailed 2–0 after the first period.
Second Period: Not Much Doing
The Islanders went back on the kill early in the second period with Ross Johnston headed to the box for interference. The Isles killed off that chance for the Devils but nearly permitted Zacha to score again coming off the back boards. Luckily, someone or something got in the way—I was not able to tell whether it was Sorokin or the post.
Going the other way, the puck ricocheted in Eberle’s direction off the back boards behind Wedgewood. He could not handle the puck cleanly, slowing him down and allowing Wedgewood to block the puck, but it was still quite the stop.
Around the midway mark of the period, Dal Colle took a shift with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. The camera panned to the bench and it became apparent that Anthony Beauvillier, who endured a couple of slips-and-falls in the first period, went to the room. The broadcast confirmed shortly thereafter. Before the period ended, Nick Leddy appeared to be missing, as well.
With four and a half minutes remaining, Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the corner fed Cizikas cutting toward the crease. It looked like Cizikas did not get a full piece of it and the Islanders remained at 0. They sent only six shots on net in the second.
Third Period: More Jump, But No Goals
Early in the third period, Lee and Mathew Barzal found themselves in a two-on-one against Dmitry Kulikov. The Devils’ defender gave up the shot, but Lee elected to pass to Barzal and Kulikov interrupted it. Shortly thereafter, Leddy took a blast as he eased in from the point that Wedgewood came out to the top of his crease to stop.
The Islanders held the offensive zone for long stretches but struggled to get pucks into the dangerous until the midpoint of the period. Andy Greene pinched down to the half wall and snapped the puck off Wedgewood’s blocker. Dal Colle and Cizikas both took a whack at the puck but the Devils’ netminder shut them down. Leddy had two more shots, both of which generated rebounds, but could not solve Wedgewood.
Late in the third, Barzal drew a hooking penalty by forward Janne Kuokkanen. Unfortunately, they did mostly nothing with it. The Devils did not allow the Islanders to really set up. Ironically, they were able to get a little more going after the man advantage ended. They had a couple chances with their net empty in the final two minutes, as well, but finished the game without a goal.
Notes and Thoughts
- Andy Greene received a warm welcome back during the first commercial break. The 38 year-old defenseman, prior to joining the Islanders, spent his entire career in New Jersey, serving as captain over his last five seasons.
- Rookie Ty Smith recorded assists on both Devils goals, continuing a five-game point streak through his first five NHL games. What a start for a fellow Smith.
- This was Sorokin’s second NHL start. Once again, he appeared in the second half of a two-game series with a divisional opponent looking to avenge the previous game’s loss. Both New Jersey goals came in rapid succession, and Sorokin could maybe work on his rebounds (I am not a goalie coach, though!). The Islanders had their legs in the third period, but it was the second time in as many tries that the Islanders failed to put any goals on the board for Sorokin.
- Leddy was back on the bench in the third period, but Beauvillier did not return. In the third period, the broadcast showed a play from the second period where Devils’ forward Nathan Bastian fell on his back and the back of his legs. He winced before he got up and skated right off the ice. Hopefully he is doing alright.
- This Arthur Staple tweet from the second period kind of sums up the night the Isles had:
4-5 times so far #Isles have bumped into one another on the ice, Sorokin played a puck that was going for icing. Not much sync out there so far.— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) January 25, 2021
Tonight marked the beginning of a five-game road trip for the Islanders. As the local broadcasted noted, the Islanders will really hit the road next. The three road games they have played thus far were short bus rides away.
Tuesday night, they will play the first of two against the Washington Capitals, with the second coming Thursday night. The Caps will not have available to them, in either game, captain Alex Ovechkin, starting goalie Ilya Samsonov, top-six center Evgeny Kuznetsov, and top-four defenseman Dmitry Orlov. It seems like a pretty good opportunity to grab some points.
Then, they head to Philadelphia to play the Flyers Saturday and Sunday nights. Should be a fun weekend.