In a season full of frustrating losses, this one had to be the most difficult to take. The Islanders battled the New Jersey Devils evenly Saturday night and led 1-0 with less than 2:00 left in the game. But two Devils goals in 14 seconds, the last one coming with 1:25 left in the game, gave New Jersey a shocking 2-1 win at the Nassau Coliseum and left the Islanders dressing room stunned.
“This is a tough loss,” Islanders Coach Jack Capuano said.
The first Devils goal was scored on a good move by David Clarkson. He carried the puck in deep down the right side, curled back towards the faceoff circle shot quickly as he turned back towards the goal. The puck found a very small hole on the short side that beat Isles rookie goalie Anders Nilsson to tie the game at 1-1 with 1:39 left in regulation time.
Just eight seconds after the tying goal, P.A. Parenteau was called for boarding when he checked Bryce Salvador hard into the boards behind the Devils goal.
“P.A. just finished his hit,” Isles captain Mark Streit said. “The guy lost his balance and they call it. It’s unfortunate but we still need to be able to hang on.”
The Devils went on the power play, won the faceoff in the Isles zone and six seconds later, a blast from the left point by Marek Zidlicky gave the Devils a 2-1 lead. Nilsson said he saw the shot as it left Zidlicky’s stick but lost it through a group of bodies before it found the back of the net.
“It’s definitely a shocker,” Mark Streit said after the game. “We played a pretty tight game. Anders [Nilsson] played really well for us and we were up 1-0 with just a couple of minutes left…To lose like that it’s a shocker and with the situation we’re in right now, we just can’t afford to lose like that. It’s careless.”
John Tavares broke a scoreless tie at the 6:46 mark of the third period on a pretty goal from the slot that beat Johan Hedberg high, glove side. Matt Moulson won a battle for the puck in the corner, passed to Parenteau behind the goal who then centered the puck to an open Tavares.
For the first two periods, both Hedberg and Nilsson were involved in an old fashioned goaltending duel with both netminders coming up with some very spectacular stops. Hedberg ended the game with 23 saves while Nilsson stopped 33 for the Islanders. Despite his strong game, he was disappointed with the final outcome.
“We play hockey to win,” Nilsson said. “Today we didn’t get any points, so it’s hard to be excited.”
The Islanders will get a chance to bounce back Sunday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers. The Devils also return to action Sunday when they host the Flyers.
“We’ve got to find a way to win tomorrow and just turn the page,” Streit said. After a stunning loss, that will be a tough challenge for this young Islanders team.
Both Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas sat out the game due to a bout with the flu. Michael Haley was recalled from Bridgeport on an emergency basis and finished the game tied for the team lead with four hits.
Prior to the game, the Islanders announced that they had signed forward Mike Halmo to an entry level contract. Halmo was fifth in the OHL with 40 goals and 44 assists this season.
The game was a sellout with a crowd of 16,250 on hand.