NEWARK, N.J — The Islanders made a push in the third period, but the three goals they let in through the first 40-plus minutes was too much to overcome on Saturday night in Newark.
A sluggish effort resulted in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in the first game of a home-and-home with the division foe. Goals in the first 10 minutes of each period allowed the Devils to build a solid lead and Cory Schneider held the Islanders off in the final minutes of the third to persevere their win.
The Islanders outshot the Devils 42-21 through the 60-minute contest, but it was New Jersey that controlled the play for the better part of the night. Taylor Hall had a breakaway opportunity minutes into the game that Thomas Greiss was able to poke away, but the Devils continued to get scoring chances early forcing Greiss to make several more big stops right off the bat.
“(The Devils) lull you into that sleepy game a little bit,” Islanders head coach Doug Weight said about the loss. “The really did a good job of – and it showed at the end because they got tired – they boxed out. It made it hard for us. We put a lot of pucks on net… It’s frustrating when you don’t come out of the gates hard, but you don’t give 42 shots in the league.
“And they weren’t all exterior wristers, we had some good opportunities.”
However, there may be a difference of opinion of just how well the Islanders played before the period of the night.
While the Islanders held the home team to eight shots in the first two periods, and five in the third, it was New Jersey that capitalized on their chances and kept the Islanders from generating much of their own. Devante Smith-Pelly scored the opening goal off a bounce pass off the boards from Travis Zajac.
Smith-Pelly was able to get behind Calvin de Haan and score on the breakaway goal.
The visiting Islanders did pick up their play a bit as the period went on, but in the second the Devils found the back of the net with the Islanders on the power play. An odd-man rush by Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac, resulted in Henrique setting up Zajac for the goal at 8:49.
The third Devils goal came with the team on the power play early in the third period. Pavel Zacha fired a hard wrist shot past Thomas Greiss to make it 3-0 at 6:21.
The Islanders ended Schneider’s shutout with 11:02 left in the game. Chaos in front of the Devils net allowed Andrew Ladd to pick up the puck in the slot and score to cut the Islanders deficit to two. New Jersey head coach John Hynes challenged the goal for goaltender interference, but call was upheld.
New York was able to pull within one off a goal by Anthony Beauvillier at 13:48. The goal was Beauvllier’s first in 19 games.
Nick Leddy nearly tied the game late in the third, but his shot hit the post and stayed out of the net.
“Sometimes you need a little bit of puck luck here and there, and some bounces to go in,” de Haan said. “We obviously didn’t get one at the end of the game when he rang it right off the post. But (the loss) is something we can learn from and it’s just going to take a little more work.”
The sluggish start on Saturday was far from the first time the Islanders have had that happen to them in recent memory. The Islanders have dealt with the issue in the past, and even when the Islanders have played well sometimes things have not gone their way.
“Hockey is a weird game. We’re obviously trying out there,” de Haan said. “It’s not like we’re not. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and you have to just keep grinding. Especially tonight I thought for the rest of the 40, well obviously the first 20 wasn’t great. But the last 40, I thought we carried the play for most of the game. “
That was the prevailing thought for Weight as well after the game. Despite the early part of the game, the Islanders interim head coach felt that his squad had been the better team on Saturday.
“We were the better team tonight,” Weight said. “I don’t care what you say. You can say what you want. That’s a good team over there I’m not taking anything away from them. Cory played really well. They got some big goal, they certainly have a team that works and they’re well coached.
“But I felt like we deserved better, but we have to go out and we have to – nothing is easy this time of year. They got the two points and we didn’t, so it’s a huge game for us tomorrow.”