The Upshot: Defense optional in NY Islanders 6-5 defeat to NJ Devils

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

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It wasn't a very pretty night for the NY Islanders as they struggled to keep the puck out of their net during a high scoring affair against the NJ Devils at The Prudential Center in Newark. After coming out of the gates hot, taking a two-goal lead just over eight minutes into the game, that lead was quickly surrendered as the Devils scored the next three.

"That's not the way we want to play that team," said Lane Lambert on his teams struggles containing the Devils' speed. "I just didn't think we had enough structure tonight. Certain areas through the neutral zone and in our defensive zone. We have to be better."

The Isles managed to keep the score closer than the game actually was, as they beat Akira Schmid five times. Ilya Sorokin, who made a phenomenal save early in the first period, wasn't his usual self, surrendering five goals on 18 shots in 40 minutes of play.


Mat Barzal was the best player on the ice for the Islanders from the onset. The Isles' newest winger opened the scoring with a breakaway goal 03:44 into the first period. He'd find the back of the net for a second time just 11 seconds into the games final frame after an aggressive forecheck by Anders Lee, allowing Bo Horvat to scoop up the puck and find Barzal crashing toward the net.

"I think that was everybody's knock on him before was he doesn't shoot the puck enough," said Horvat. "He's proven what kind of shot he has this preseason. He's just got to continue to keep shooting the puck. He's got a lethal shot."

Pierre Engvall recorded two points, finding Brock Nelson at the top of the crease, where he redirected the puck into the net and later scored himself as he showed off his speed chasing down a puck, beating Schmid five-hole.


Defense as a whole wasn't near where it needs to be if the Islanders hope to contend with the top teams in the division. The Devils seemed to move the puck at will as they played tic-tac-toe throughout the night in the Isles' zone.

Jesper Bratt recorded a hat-trick, including a beautiful team goal where it seemed as if every player made a one-touch pass before being buried by Bratt. Defenseman John Marino recorded two goals, leaving Alexander Romanov in the dust for his second after avoiding a big hit from the heavy-hitting Russian.

The Isles played a lineup consisting largely of NHL regulars, which could be cause for concern. On the other hand, most know their names are already inked into the opening night lineup and are just trying to get their feet under them and avoid injury before the season starts.


It may not have resulted in a goal, but Horvat and Barzal showed a glimpse of why they can be so dangerous together. Horvat's slick move created enough space for him to find Barzal on the back post, but unable to bury the puck on his backhand, Barzy spun out, locating a wide-open Matt Martin trailing the play, but was stoned by Schmid.

If the two can begin to build chemistry like this, both should have no problem registering points alongside one another.


The Isles have just two more pre-season games, with the next being Thursday at 7:00, as they travel to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Philadelphia Flyers.