After Saturday’s win over the St. Louis Blues, Islanders’ forward P.A. Parenteau declared that the Isles upcoming game with the Devils was a statement game. If so, the statement the Islanders made against the hottest team in hockey is we’re close but we’re not quite there yet.
The Islanders overcame a pair of one-goal deficits to force overtime and had several chances to win late in the game but in the end, Brian Rolston’s goal in the sixth round of the shootout gave the Devils a 3-2 victory.
“It was definitely positive,” Parenteau said after the game. “I think these guys [the Devils] were 19-2-2 in the last 23 games, so I think we gave that a really good game. We played as hard as we could and we didn’t give them much. Monty [Montoya] played well. We were as patient as we should be against these guys. As far as a statement, I think it was a positive one.”
The Devils trap was very effective early as they limited the Islanders to 11 shots on goal over the first two periods. The Islanders got good goaltending from Al Montoya early on and neither team could score in the first period.
Rolston broke the scoreless tie just over four minutes into the second period when he redirected a hard shot from the point by Ilya Kovalchuk on the power play to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead.
The Islanders drew even with a power play goal of their own at the 17:06 mark of the middle stanza when Josh Bailey put home the rebound of a shot from the right circle and beat Martin Brodeur to make it a 1-1 game.
The Devils carried the play early in the third period and broke ahead 2-1 on Kovalchuk’s 24th goal of the year. The Russian sniper took a pass from Jacob Josefson, sped down the right wing and beat Montoya with a shot that acted like a knuckle ball before finding the back of the net.
As the third period went on, the Islanders finally started to get a few more scoring chances. Blake Comeau forced a turnover with an aggressive forecheck and managed to take a deflected pass and put it behind Brodeur before he could react. The game was tied 2-2 and headed for overtime.
The Isles had the better of the play in the extra five minutes, but Brodeur made four stops including a beautiful glove save on Isles’ defenseman Jack Hillen.
In the shootout, Frans Nielsen gave the Islanders the early lead with his patented backhand move but Kovalchuk tied it up for the Devils in the second round. The teams remained deadlocked until Rolston broke the tie with a beautiful fake that fooled Montoya and gave the Devils the win.
Despite the loss, the Islanders tried to take the positives out of their performance. “We’re a young group of guys and I think we showed a lot of character tonight,” Parenteau concluded. “We worked hard, we were patient and for a young team, that’s a very good sign. We didn’t try anything off the rush, we played the same game as them and we didn’t give them what they wanted. I’m really happy with the effort tonight.”
The Islanders return to action Tuesday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Milan Jurcina returned to the Isles lineup after sitting out the past several games with a groin injury. Jurcina played 15:27 and finished with a two shots on goal, three hits and a blocked shot.
After the game, the Islanders held their “Skate with the Greats” event. Isles alumni participating in the game included Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Butch Goring, Benoit Hogue, Eric Cairns and Steve Webb.