Game 68: The Trilogy Ends in Long Island – Devils desert the Islanders!

On a Saturday night that seemed to reflect the same result as their last game played in Long Island, the Devils made sure Anders Nilsson’s lightning didn’t strike twice. In miraculous fashion, New Jersey found its way out of the Island with a crucial W.

Anders Nilsson was expected to start after Evgeni Nabokov surrendered 5 goals against the Devils (3 of them belonging to Ilya Kovalchuk) in their last game (the Devils won 5-1). For New Jersey, Johan Hedberg was named the starter. Things seemed to be interesting after the puck dropped as both teams came out lively. In the first minute of the game itself, there was some early pressure by the Devils in the Islander zone. Soon however, momentum turned to New York’s favor. At the 15:17 mark of the first period, Hedberg made a big save on Nino Niederreiter on a breakaway and many Moose calls resulted after. Around the 13 minute mark, Kovalchuk (who was double shifted again with the 4th line) had a great rush but since, that failed, the Islanders took it back for a 3-on-1. However, Kyle Okposo could not finish it off. From that point though, New York seemed to have control of the period. A Steve Staios knuckler was snagged by Moose and the Devils finally caught a break later, when Parise was hooked by Travis Hamonic at the 6:19 point. The Devils seemed to have forgotten that Michael Grabner was a penalty kill threat and he stole the puck during the power play but thankfully, did not score. Later, Eric Boulton high-sticked Micheal Haley of the Islanders and took a penalty at the 2:44 mark. Soon after, it appeared that New Jersey’s defense completely forgot about Matt Moulson and was all alone in front. Coming up clutch, Moose made the save and repeated that with a big save on ex-Devil Jay Pandolfo with 24 seconds left on the clock. Both teams went scoreless after 1, with shots-on-goal in favor of the Isles 9-6.

It seemed early on in the second period that either the players’ skates had problems or the ice had some problems. This was because many players seemed to have lost their edge and fell down a ton; that successfully brought some laughs from the crowd. During the 15 minute point of the period, Moose made 3 crucial stops on John Tavares, Hamonic, and Grabner. After a David Clarkson toe drag shot that was stopped by Nilsson later, the Devils took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty (served by Steve Bernier) at the 12:18 mark of the period. Shorthanded, Zach Parise had a great chance to get a goal but there was no result. Islander captain Mark Streit hooked Anton Volchenkov at the 8:06 mark of the 2nd, giving the Devils a power play opportunity in which Parise had some nice shots, but no goals. Just moments later, Moose made a huge stop on Tavares at the 5:33 point and 14 seconds later, Kovalchuk hit the pipe with a blistering shot. There should have been a high-sticking call on Haley for hitting Volchenkov with his stick but none was called. Haley would later then get robbed by Moose on a breakaway at the 3:13 point. Nilsson also had a great glove save on Dainius Zubrus at the 1:16 point. With just 10 seconds left in the period, Mark Eaton held Alex Ponikarovsky, who was powering his way to the net and drew a penalty. Marek Zidlicky had a chance to shoot with 2 seconds left but hesitated and the period ended with still no score. Shots-on-goal were 21-16 in favor of the Devils.

You could possibly call this a boring match up to this point because in the previous two periods, there was virtually nothing going on. To some devils fans, scoring 5 goals on the same team the game before and entering the third without any was a bit of a concern. However, Nilsson seemed like a much more confident goalie than Nabokov when it came to facing NJ. The Islanders lost Grabner because he blocked a hard shot from Kovy. Two great shots on goal from Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias respectively that came later were answered effectively by Nilsson. Ryan Carter took a boarding penalty, drawn by Pandolfo at the 15:30 point of the 3rd. On that Islander power play, Zach Parise, again, got some great chances. As the chances went back and forth, the Islanders drew first blood like the last time these two met in the Coliseum. John Tavares scored his 27th at the 13:14 mark of the third (previously he had been denied any scoring chances from NJ) assisted by P.A. Parenteau and Moulson. At this point the Islanders seemed to have control and Nilsson was attempting to pitch another shutout of the Devils. New Jersey hasn’t been shut out by the same goalie in consecutive tries in a long time. Many chances that the Devils had were stopped by Nilsson. Somehow though, with just 1:40 left on the clock, David Clarkson did a semi spin-o-rama move and shot the pick through Nilsson. With the assists going to Jacob Josefson and Ponikarovsky, Clarkson’s 28th tied this game up at 1 and ended Nilsson’s shutout bid. While this game was supposed to go into OT, Parenteau took a bad boarding penalty, drawn by Bryce Salvador, which really hurt the Islanders with just 1:30 left. At 1:26, just after the faceoff, out of all the skaters the Devils have, MAREK ZIDLICKY COMES UP CLUTCH! His goal at that point, assisted by Kovalchuk and Parise, put the Devils up 2-1! Though replay shows that Elias might have gotten his stick on that shot, the goal was credited to Zidlicky, his first as a Devil, and what a better time to score than that? Last second forays by the Islanders were no good as our New Jersey Devils came back miraculously in Long Island and defeated the Isles 2-1! Shots on goal were 35-24 for NJ and the Devils moved into a tie with Philadelphia (who they will play tomorrow), having 83 points each. Unfortunately, the Flyers just moments later got a win in Toronto so they improve to 85. Look for a great game between these two tomorrow though.

njd2 – 1

Three Stars:

  1. Marek Zidlicky (NJ) [who woulda thought?]
  2. David Clarkson (NJ)
  3. John Tavares (NYI)

Key Notes: Flu seemed to have been running through the Islanders’ locker room. Michael Grabner came back from it today but Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin were sidelined due to it. The Coliseum was sold out again (16,250) but there were several Devils fans in attendance. Ilya Kovalchuk voted for Vladimir Putin in Russia’s recent presidential elections. Since Putin won, Kovalchuk admitted to have been very excited and he has produced great numbers for the Devils ever since! New Jersey was a perfect 3/3 on the penalty kill tonight. Matt Moulson of the Isles only needs to play 8 more games to pass Zach Parise’s dad, JP, for consecutive games played by an Islander. If he passes JP, he won’t be number one but it’s a fun fact to know. Jay Pandolfo was stuck at 99 goals with NJ.

Next Game: Sunday, March 11th, 2012 vs. the Flyers @ The Rock at 7 pm.

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Raj Vaidya

About Raj Vaidya

Computer Science major at Rutgers University. I am a die-hard Patriots fan living in the Princeton, NJ area and have been writing for Foxboro Blog since 2012.