Newark, N.J.– ‘Wild and whirling’ hockey was played tonight at the Prudential Center, as the New York Islanders defeat the New Jersey Devils in OT by a score of 5-4, in what turned out to be a hard-fought, white-knuckler of a match.
Frenzied hockey overshadowed, at times, by sloppy backchecking from both teams, coupled with key face-off loses during crucial moments and in tenuous areas by the Devils, saw back-and-forth hockey that resembled playoff-like intensity and drama. In all, it made for an entertaining spectacle while revealing some glaring issues for the Islanders to redress. (But more on that another time.)
The first period saw both teams playing an even-keeled, physical game, marked early on by a scrap between former Devil Eric Boulton and Krys Barch at the 2:35 mark. The Isles lagged in the SOG department (giving up 8 shots to their 1) during the first half, but struck first blood, nevertheless, on the Power Play, resulting from an Interference call on Andy Greene at 13:51.
John Tavares gets a quick feed from Brad Boyes that stemmed from the grinding along the boards by hard-working Frans Nielsen, giving the surging Tavares his 3rd of the season, avenging some of his past frustrations with this Devils team.
Evgeni Nabokov helped the Isles maintain their composure at the onset, as his team hurried to regain some momentum that seemed to ebb and flow with every shift. By the close of the period, however, the Isles would raise their shot total to 7, while the Devils only added two more to theirs, illustrating the point that for the latter part of the 1st, the Isles seemed to be the more aggressive team on the forecheck.
The Islanders would open the second period with Keith Aucoin‘s 3rd of the season at the 2:41 mark, assisted by Travis Hamonic, who rifled a pass that Aucoin was astute (lucky enough, you decide) enough to tame with his pads and place deftly on his tape, shoving the puck by a sprawling Martin Brodeur.
But the Devils did not cower, for 72 seconds later an opportunistic goal by Steve Bernier cut the lead in half, giving New Jersey the momentum it needed to make it extremely difficult for the Islanders to rally around the energy inspired by a goal.
The Devils’s 4th line (Barch – Adam Henrique – Matt Anderson) wrecked havoc for most of the second period, with relentless forechecking, wearing down the Isles and setting up their tying goal by Ryan Carter, with help by Matt Anderson and Stephen Gionta.
Undoubtedly, this line constituted Jersey’s heart and soul for the evening, thanks in large part to Henrique, who looked sharp all night long in his return to the ice.
The game remained tied for just 1:10 as Tavares could do no wrong this evening, scoring the second go-ahead goal, showcasing his strength and speed on a one-on-one against Bryce Salvador; the play originating off a generous rebound by Nabokov and quick clearing attempt by Matt Moulson. Tavares, as all great players do, positioned himself perfectly for the ricochet pass off the boards, taking the puck all the way to the back of the Devils’s net.
But as was the case all night for the Islanders, sloppy backchecking once again cost them the lead, as the Devils barricaded themselves inside the Islanders zone for a good minute and half, wearing down their opponent and readying for the kill, and at the 17:12 mark Henrik Tallinder ties it up with a 41 foot wrist shot that zipped passed a weary Nabokov.
Michael Grabner almost made it a 4-3 game before the close of the second period, a short-handed opportunity that clanked off Brodeur’s post, all while fending off a sliding Devils’s defensemen attempting to trip him in the process.
The third period and OT were a match in itself, as the Islanders would turn to their special teams to save the game and eventually bring home the victory.
The last two minutes of the third saw some more tense moments, as a poor line change that saw up to 8 Islander players on the ice, gave the Devils the advantage for the remainder of regulation.
The penalty would carry over into OT, and the Isles special teams would prevail yet again, and by the close of the evening racking up 4 solid penalty kills.
But it would be the Isles Power Play, the other side of this wonderful special teams ‘coin’, that would seal the deal, as the Devils are called for crossing-checking (Tallinder at 1:47) and Brad Boyes puts away the game winner.
More on the Islanders recent roadshow in the next 24 hours, so stay tuned Isles nation.
For now, bask and relish in the glory that is looking DOWN at the Rangers and Flyers. Oh yes. Loving the view!
- Tavares has 11 points in 7 games, the vast majority on the road. Stellar play from one of the best in the business. Hats off to this remarkable player.
- The Islanders won more face-offs tonight, especially during key moments and in key areas: 33 to 26 in the Isles favor.
- The Islanders have the best Power Play unit in the NHL; second best PK unit. Special teams have given this team the respect it deserves, at present.
- Poor Cappy: Jack Capuano needs a vacation. Coach Capuano leaves the game in the third after being struck with a puck. <OUCH>
- Capuano needs to have a stern talk with Kyle Okposo. This forward is moving backwards.
- The Isles are tied for FIRST PLACE in the Atlantic. How about that? Good to day to you.