The New York Islanders battled hard for 60 minutes but couldn’t find a way to consistently pierce the New Jersey Devils defense and fell 2-1 at the Nassau Coliseum Saturday. The Isles played the game without captain John Tavares who remains day-t0-day with a lower body injury.
Corey Schneider had a good game for the Devils, making 30 saves although the Islanders had precious few quality scoring chances from the slot or opportunities to poke home rebounds.
For the first 40 minutes, it was a typical New Jersey Devils game, played mostly on the perimeter with limited scoring chances for both teams.
Adam Henrique made it 1-0 Devils at the 11:37 mark of the first period on a backhander from in close that was set up by a pretty pass by Reid Boucher. The Islanders defense was caught flat footed on the play as Boucher swept down the right wing and set up the goal.
After the Isles struggled for offense in the first 4o minutes, coach Jack Capuano removed rookie Brock Nelson from the top line and inserted Frans Nielsen.
“I thought our young guys struggled a little bit tonight,” Capuano admitted. “After a couple of periods, we talked about changing the lines.”
The Islanders finally got on the board on a goal by Frans Nielsen. Thomas Vanek intercepted a clearing attempt in the New Jersey zone and found Kyle Okposo who made a pinpoint pass to Nielsen in the deep slot. Nielsen beat Schneider with a high wrist shot that tied the game with 9:29 left in regulation time.
“It was a good play by Vanek to knock that puck down,” Okposo said when asked to describe the Isles’ goal. “I knew they [the Devils players] were caught along the wall so I just tried to get it off the wall to create a 2-on-1 there by the net.”
The Devils got the game-winner just 2:32 later on a gutsy goal by Travis Zajac. A shot from the top of the circle by Marek Zidlicky deflected off Zajac’s chin or shoulder in front of the net and got behind goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
“We were aggressive and finally got the goal,” Nielsen said. “Once we got the goal we sat back again. We just have to keep going. It’s a tough loss.”
The Islanders had a good chance to tie the game again when Mark Fayne was called for tripping with 3:28 left on the clock but the power play failed to convert and the Devils were able to escape with the win.
The Islanders return to action Sunday night when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild. Capuano was unsure if John Tavares would be available for the game or if Josh Bailey, who suffered an upper-body injury and left tonight’s game early, would be ready to play either.
The Islanders are now 1-5-4 in their last 10 home games.
Attendance was 16,012.
Ryan Clowe and Matt Carkner dropped the glove in the first period with Clowe getting the edge in a lengthy bout that saw both players get some good punches in.
Frans Nielsen won 10-of-11 faceoffs in the game for the Isles.