Mackenzie Blackwood made 42 saves to shut out the New York Islanders, who had their moments but committed enough costly mistakes to allow the New Jersey Devils a 4-0 win that dropped the Islanders to 5-4-2 on the season.
Ilya Sorokin made 30 saves, some of them outstanding to keep the Isles in it, but even he couldn’t save them as he conceded four goals for the first time since the opening weekend of the season.
The game was filled with chances, and early on it looked like the Isles might have the better of them. But the Devils struck first — cashing in on Isles power play misplays — and Blackwood never looked like he was about to concede anything.
First Period: Momentary lapse of attention
The highlight of the first period may have been the atmosphere: With the Islanders playing 13 consecutive on the road — this was #11 — and mostly well out of the metro area, this was the first and best chance for fans to see them in person. And they delivered. The Josh Bailey song rang out in the [Bank of some sort] Center in Newark, giving it a soccer-like atmosphere where road fans are present and heard.
On the ice, the Isles had a pretty good period, outside of a really ugly power play that led to the deficit when the Devils converted their third consecutive chance for a shorthanded goal at 12:12.
The power play unit was caught lazy and abandoning the slot in their own zone, seemingly counting on the Devils to go one-and-done on shot attempts and then regroup to PK positioning. Ilya Sorokin stopped the first two chances from opposite angles, but was drawn out of the crease for the final attempt, Janne Kuokkanen putting it into a wide-open net.
After the shorthanded goal, the Isles power play looked a little better and showed some urgency, but too little too late.
Before all that, the Devils’ best chance came on a short Dawson Mercer breakaway, which Sorokin patiently and acrobatically turned away.
Late in the period, Zach Parise was part of a good rush in the Devils zone, but as he rounded the net he raised his stick for an unexpected collision with Ty Smith, crosschecking the defenseman in the neck. The PK was ready for it, and indeed Casey Cizikas led counterattack pressure that nearly matched the Devils’ shorty for shorty.
It wasn’t to be, but at least the Isles killed the penalty, including the 14 seconds that carried over to the second period.
Second Period: Special teams pain
The Isles came out for the second with good life again, leading to some early pressure and forcing some Devils turnovers in the neutral zone. One led to a half chance for Parise down the slot, but Jonas Siegenthaler got enough of him to disrupt the attempt and go to the box for slashing.
The Isles got no official shots on that one, but the puck movement was alright.
As is often the case, they were more effective at even strength, with looks from dangerous angles but actual shots often coming from low-percentage areas. Still, they had Mackenzie Blackwood moving and it could’ve easily been 1-1 if not for his work in goal.
After one of those, a Kyle Palmieri chance from the top of the slot, the former Devil and former teammate Damon Severson got into an exchange of disagreeable gestures. That created a 4-on-4, with the best chance coming from Mercer, who flew off the bench to ring the post to Sorokin’s left.
At the end of the 4-on-4, Scott Mayfield held on to the puck along the right wing boards in the Isles zone and drew a hooking call on Tomas Tatar.
The Isles worked that man advantage nicely down low, but Blackwood was ready for a chance down low, and Ryan Graves was in position to block the best open chance, a loaded Mathew Barzal shot from the right wing circle.
At the end of that power play, Oliver Wahlstrom blew coverage on a 2-on-2 — but fortunately Mercer lost the handle on the puck — then doubled his mistake by reaching in and tripping the dangerous Devils forward.
This time, it proved costly, with a team finally converting on its power play. With 50 seconds left, Dougie Hamilton’s shot was headed wide, but it deflected back toward the net and around Sorokin’s pad to make it 2-0 for the Devils as they reached the second intermission.
Third Period: No chance on that one
The third period was more of the same, except with more desperation from the Isles, followed by more punishment when their extra pushes went awry.
As the Isles pinched and layered pressure in the offensive zone, they again created some good looks 5 minutes in. But Palmieri tried a little too hard to keep it alive, diving to chop a bouncing puck back toward Brock Nelson at the point to keep play alive. Nelson tried a little too hard to swat the bouncing puck instead of use his body to block it, so it got by him to create a 2-on-1. Adam Pelech swooped a little too far over to puck carrier Andreas Johnsson, who made a nice feed to Dawson.
Dawson deked and thought he beat Sorokin cleanly, but Sorokin got his paddle on it. That wasn’t enough though, as the puck caromed up and over for a delayed celebration. Dawson, the 18th overall pick in 2020 who was dangerous all night, finally struck gold.
That made it 3-0 at 5:46. Hamilton added another nail 10 minutes later, making it 4-0 at 16:33 with a heavy shot from the high right wing boards.
It’s another three days between games, when the road trip wraps up with back-to-backs in Florida Monday and Tuesday. Not ideal, not at all. But here we are.
Hopefully they grab some points down in Florida so that the pressure isn’t too high when they finally open UBS Arena with pomp and fanfare a week from Saturday.