I mean, the game wasn’t a total loss, was it? The New Jersey Devils (25-24-10) split the weekend back-to-back, home-and-home series with the New York Islanders (27-21-10) as they drop this one, 6-4. The Devils do snap their six-game winning streak on the road, which is a shame because they have been great away from The Rock, but the Islanders have been just as great at the Barclays Center. The Devils were outshot 32-30. We expected tonight to be a close game and we got it; it just didn’t go New Jersey’s way.
The Devils got on the board first with Miles Wood’s eighth goal of the season; it was also a power play goal. Getting the first goal was important but getting that elusive second goal was crucial and they could not. Ryan Strome tied the game with his 10th about five minutes later and Casey Cizikas gave the Isles the lead with his seventh. Strome got his second of the game and Andrew Ladd got his 16th of the season to extend the Islanders’ lead to 4-1. Ladd’s was a shorthanded goal. Kyle Palmieri then cut the lead to 4-2 with his 16th goal of the season (leads the team). Steven Santini was originally credited with the Devils’ third goal (4-3 now) but the puck bounced off of Joseph Blandisi and into the net. This is his first of the season. New Jersey headed into the third period down 4-3, looking like they might stage an epic comeback, but John Tavares and Jason Chimera both scored a minute into the third period to help the Isles go up 6-3. Taylor Hall was able to score on a four-minute minor penalty to Ladd (for high sticking Wood) to cut the Isles lead to two goals but the Devils were not able to complete the comeback.
The game definitely wasn’t pretty. It was gritty, it was physical, and it had a playoff atmosphere. The Islanders had 38 (38!) hits tonight. but we can take positives out of this game. They had 25 (!) blocked shots. They went 2/4 on the power play and it’s gotten better over the last few weeks. They won 53.1% of faceoffs. They did manage 30 shots on goal and Palmieri led the team with six. Hall had a three point night (a goal and two assists) and is first Devil this season to reach the 40-point mark. And Captain Andy Greene prevented Strome from having a hat trick at the end of the game (thanks, Andy!).
Keith Kinkaid made 26 saves on 32 shots, posting an .812 save percentage, and made some highlight reel saves throughout the night. The Islanders could have easily scored eight or nine or 10 goals but Kinkaid’s heroics are going to be overlooked. Jean-François Bérubé wasn’t that much better, saving 26 shots on 30 faced with an .867 save %.
Tonight’s game was huge because the Devils are now four points behind the Isles in the playoff standings. They missed out on a huge opportunity to pick up another two points to tie New York in the standings.Their next seven games are against Eastern Conference teams and New York goes on a nine-game road trip (where they haven’t been very good). I don’t think any of us really expected the Devils to make the playoffs after their slide in December and I don’t know how many of us still think they might. If you asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have said yes. Now? Not so much. But it’s okay. We’ll be fine. They’ll be fine. It’s time to just enjoy the ride before the offseason hits and then bye bye, hockey for a few months. If they somehow, miraculously, make the playoffs, great! It’s a step forward. If they don’t, then fine. I would like to not get my hopes up (again) just to have them crushed (again). It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. This is hockey.
The Devils will be back at the Prudential Center to play Ottawa Tuesday night; puck drops at 7PM.