The New York Islanders kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. It was the Isles fifth straight win and third straight over the Devils.
Jaroslav Halak was making his fifth straight start in net. Halak came into the game having only allowed four goals in his last four games. Nikolay Kulemin returned to the lineup on Saturday for the Isles, he took the spot of Connor Jones on the 4th line.
Doug Weight said before the game he wanted the Islanders to put a few goals on the board before the Leafs took the ice against the Penguins. He wanted to make Toronto sweat before their game even began. The Isles would need to win their next two games and have Toronto get one or fewer points in their last two games if they want to make the playoffs.
The Isles would not take that message to heart in a particularly sloppy first period. The Devils controlled most of the 20 minutes. It was extremely disappointing to watch, with just about everything on the line.
Halak, coming off a shutout, was the man yet again in the opening frame. He stopped all 14 of the Devils shots, including a Taylor Hall breakaway, and kept the Isles in the game.
The Islanders only had four shots of their own in the first and that even came after two unsuccessful power play opportunities. They looked flat footed and disinterested. The Isles and Devils were locked in a scoreless battle at the first intermission.
It was a much better second for the Islanders, even though it didn’t start that way. Just 30 seconds in the period Adam Henrique had a breakaway of his own but was pushed away by Halak.
Two minutes later the Isles would find their legs, and strike first. Kulemin entered the Devils zone and fed a trailing Adam Pelech who wristed a shot that beat Keith Kinkaid. It was only the third goal of the year for Pelech, but a big one none to less.
The Islanders were just 1-8 on the power play when they met up with the Devils last Saturday in Brooklyn. Today, they were 0-2 as they headed to the third power play of the night.
Although they failed to capitalize, seconds after the power play expired, Anders Lee tipped home a Nick Leddy shot to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead. At the 6:23 mark of the second, the Islanders were rolling. It was the 32nd goal of the year, for Lee.
Halak continued to stand tall in the second. He had to stop two more Devil breakaways, that was four who those counting at home. The Isles played a much better period overall, they were much quicker and made smarter decisions defensively. They had a four more chances as the clock wound down, but took a 2-0 lead in the locker room.
The Final Frame
Four minutes into the third, Jason Chimera would join the party. Alan Quine led a two on one and spun around to feed Chimera who proceeded to beat Kinkaid. The Isles were up 3-0 after Chimera’s 19th of the season. He is now one goal away from matching his last season total.
Just two minutes later Sam Bennett threw a puck at the net that squeaked under Halak’s pads. The puck sat in the crease for a moment before Halak kicked it in to put the Devils on the board. The Islanders three-goal lead lasted 68 seconds. It was the first goal Halak allowed in over five periods of play. The Devils had a nice sense of momentum and had the Isles running around in the defensive zone.
To put the icing on the cake and secure the win, the Isles would add a power play goal. With 12 minutes to play in the game, Bailey fed Lee in front, and Lee scored his second of the game on the backhand. Lee continues to add to his career high in goals, he is now at 33.
The Devils would add a goal with 2.2 seconds left. The Isles went on to defeat the Devils 4-2, their fifth straight win.
The Islanders will now hang tight for the rest of the night to find out if tomorrow’s season finale against Ottawa will mean anything. Either way the Isles and Senators will wrap up the regular season tomorrow afternoon at the Barclays Center.