The New York Islanders continued to play a spoilers role as the season enters its final weeks. Frans Nielsen and Brock Nelson scored in the shootout while Nielsen scored the only goal for the home team in regulation and the Islanders beat the visiting New Jersey Devils 2-1. The shootout loss further hurt the Devils diminishing playoff hopes.
Anders Nilsson made 23 saves and stopped both New Jersey skaters in the shootout to clinch the victory for the Islanders.
“It was nice for me personally to bounce-back from the previous two games,” Nilsson said. “I felt calmer, felt comfortable and the guys helped me feel comfortable. They were tracking guys well, keeping them to the outside and cleared the view for me. I pretty much saw every shot. They made it easy for me to play.”
The game was a defensive struggle with few shots on goal and even fewer quality scoring chances. In fact, the Devils had only two shots on net in the first period while the Islanders had only three in the third. The Devils prevented the Isles from registering a shot on goal for the final 14:44 of regulation time.
The Islanders carried the play in the first period, outshooting New Jersey 9-2 but neither team was able to score. The Isles were also the more physical team in the opening stanza, outhitting the visitors, 19-4.
Nielsen made it 1-0 Isles just 2:12 into the second period on a rush down the right side. He sent the puck towards the net where it deflected off Patrik Elias of the Devils and past goalie Cory Schneider. Josh Bailey drew the only assist on the play.
The Devils evened the score at 10:20 of the second period when Adam Henrique beat Nilsson when he picked up a rebound of his own shot just outside the crease.
New Jersey controlled the tempo in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 7-3 but neither team was able to score and the game headed to overtime.
The biggest defensive play of the game came in the extra session when Thomas Hickey slid down to block an open shot attempt by defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Zidlicky would have had an excellent scoring chance had Hickey not made that play.
In the shootout, Nielsen opened up with a quick goal on his patented backhand move that quickly beat Schneider.
“He’s got a few go-to moves,” Isles’ coach Jack Capuano said when asked about Nielsen’s shootout performance. “When it comes down to the skills competition, he’s pretty good. He made a good move and fortunately for us it was in the back of the net.”
After Nilsson stopped Henrique’s shot, Nelson used his backhand to give the Isles a 2-0 lead in the shootout. Nilsson stopped Elias’ snap shot to clinch the win.
“It was a fun game to play,’” Nielsen said. ”We’re a young team and we’re working hard.”
The Islanders return to action Tuesday night when they host the Florida Panthers at 7:00 PM at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders played the game with 10 rookies on their roster. Veterans Lubomir Visknovsky and Kyle Okposo remain sidelined by injuries.
Official attendance was 15,108.
The Islanders outhit the Devils 46-16. Cal Clutterbuck had nine hits to lead the way while Matt Martin added six.