The New York Islanders fell behind early and never quite recovered in a tough 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils Monday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum.
Rod Pelley and Mattias Tedenby each had a goal and an assist for New Jersey while Mark Fraser and Jason Arnott both added two assists. Martin Brodeur made 27 saves to earn the win for the Devils. P.A. Parenteau and Michael Grabner scored for the Islanders.
Vladimir Zharkov opened the scoring for New Jersey just 4:25 into the game. Starting goaltender Kevin Poulin mishandled a slow rolling puck in the crease Zharkov put home the loose puck for his first career NHL goal.
It was the sixth time the Islanders had allowed a goal in the first five minutes of a game in their last seven contests. “We didn’t come out hard enough,” Parenteau admitted. “That’s been our problem lately. We have to fix that because it’s too important in this league, you need a good start in this league and we have to figure it out quickly.”
The Devils increased their lead to 2-0 with a power play goal just 57 seconds later. Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 13th of the year when he blasted a high one-timer from the top of the left circle over Poulin’s shoulder.
The Islanders tried to get change the momentum of the game when Zenon Konopka dropped the gloves with Mark Fraser at the 8:57 mark of the first period. Later, Matt Martin and David Clarkson had a fight. The first period ended with New Jersey holding a 2-0 lead.
Mattias Tedenby scored the prettiest goal of the night 6:40 into the second period when he stickhandled through the Islanders zone, fake out Andrew MacDonald and lifted a backhander past Poulin to make it 3-0 Devils.
The Islanders struck for two goals in 54 seconds to pull back into the game midway through the second period. Blake Comeau carried the puck down the left wing and fed Parenteau in front for an easy tip in to break Brodeur’s shutout. Then Grabner beat Brodeur from the slot after a perfect pass from Josh Bailey and the Islanders were back to within one goal.
Poulin let in another soft goal with 3:01 left in the second period when he misplayed a shot from the point by Mark Fraser. Rod Pelley pounced on the rebound and easily put the puck past Poulin who was out of position to increase the Devils led to 4-2. Dainius Zubrus added an insurance goal off another rebound to make it 5-2 New Jersey just 56 seconds later.
It was a rough outing for the rookie goaltender who was starting in place of Rick DiPietro. The Isles said there was nothing wrong with DP who was given a “maintenance day.” Nathan Lawson served as Poulin’s backup.
“If you asked him [Poulin], he’d probably say he’d like to have a few of those goals back,” Isles’ Coach Jack Capuano said when asked about Poulin’s performance today. “He battled.”
The Islanders thought they had narrowed the New Jersey lead to 5-3 with 1:29 left in the second period when Parenteau scored off a scramble in front. The goal was disallowed when the referees said that Grabner interfered with Brodeur. Replays clearly showed Devils defenseman Mark Fayne pushed Graber into the crease but the play is not reviewable and the no goal call stood.
“I went to the net and got pushed from behind,” Grabner said. “The ref next to the goal said the goal was good, but he was overruled.”
“You could see on the replay he [Grabner] definitely got pushed by the Devils player,” a frustrated Parenteau said after the game. “It’s unfortunate because we were working very hard. We had our legs going and had a lot of good things going after those two goals were scored.”
Brodeur made 10 saves in a scoreless third period as the Devils held on for the 5-2 win.
“I thought in the second and third period we played much better than in the first period,” Capuano said. “We had a slow start, and you can’t give a team a couple goal lead like that, they’re pretty solid defensively.”
The Islanders return to action Thursday night when they host the Washington Capitals.
In addition to DiPietro, the Isles scratched Trevor Gillies and dressed seven defensemen. Gillies could have been helpful after two questionable hits on John Tavares—one in the second period by Fraser and another in the third period where Tavares was tackled near the Devils blue line. The Islanders did not respond to either hit.
Adam Mair, Matthew Corrente and Anssi Salmela were the Devils scratches.
Defenseman Milan Jurcina left the game in the first period with an upper body injury and did not return. He played only 3:19 in the game. No additional updates on Jurcina’s status were available after the game.