Despite surrendering three leads in regulation, Brad Boyes’ game-winner 2:01 into overtime gave the Islanders a 5-4 win over the New Jersey Devils Thursday at Prudential Center.
With the win, the Islanders conclude a five-game, eight-day road trip with seven points (3-1-1), and tie the Devils atop the Atlantic Division with nine points (4-2-1).
Following the game, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said he was pleased with the recent results the team has had, but warned against thinking too far ahead.
“It’s good to come on the road early when you’ve got some new players,” Capuano said. “You build that camaraderie. It’s a good way to end the trip. But it’s just one hockey game. We’ve got to put this game behind us and get ready for another game with New Jersey.”
The Islanders killed off a third period too many men on the ice penalty that extended into the start of overtime. Moments later, they found themselves on the man advantage 1:47 into the extra period when Henrik Tallinder cross-checked Matt Moulson behind the Devils goal.
Fourteen seconds into the power play, a prolonged scramble in front of Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur ended when Boyes netted his second goal of the season, giving the Islanders the extra point in the standings. Frans Nielsen and John Tavares both had chances, but were turned away by Brodeur and diving New Jersey defensemen.
“It was a bit of a scramble,” Boyes said. “I know [Brodeur] came out and played it and He was trying to get a piece of it and was able to kick it over Johnny. He came in front, and had a couple of whacks and from there it was a scramble. Their guys were making saves – they had everyone kind of flopping all over the place and I was just trying to find the puck somewhere. I tried taking a whack at it and got lucky.”
The Islanders special teams clicked at both ends of the ice. The power play struck on 3-of-4 opportunities, taking 14 shots in just over four minutes throughout the evening. The penalty kill, which ranks atop the Eastern Conference at 96.0%, was a perfect 5-for-5.
“I think its movement, making the simple play,” Tavares said of the Islanders power play, which has scored on six of its last seven chances going back to Jan. 27 at Winnipeg. “A few inches, a few feet could really make a difference on making a pass or gaining ice, getting a better body position and taking the shots when they’re there.
“We’re not forcing too many things. We’re not trying to make too many high-risk plays. We’re keeping it simple and moving well and when you do those things you get the extra body out there and most of the time you get some chances and can score.”
The Devils had an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal until Andy Greene went to the box for interference at 13:51 of the opening period. Forty seconds into the power play, John Tavares extended his goal streak to three games. Boyes had his stick lifted as he attempted a shot from the slot, and the puck took a fortunate bounce over to Tavares, who quickly buried it from the right side at 14:31.
After the Greene minor, the Islanders outshot the Devils 34-24 for the rest of the game.
Keith Aucoin doubled the Islanders lead on a power play goal early in the second. Travis Hamonic passed the puck from the right side to the centerman, whose first attempt was stopped by Brodeur. Aucoin jammed at the rebound and scored his fourth of the season.
Aucoin’s marker gave the Islanders goals on five consecutive power plays, dating back to Sunday’s game at Winnipeg.
But New Jersey tied the game with two goals in the next four minutes. Just 32 seconds after Aucoin’s goal, the Devils cut their deficit to 2-1 on Steve Bernier’s first tally of the season. The puck pinballed from Stephen Gionta’s stick across to Bernier, who scored at 3:13.
Three minutes later, Ryan Carter tied the game at 2-2. Matt Anderson took the initial shot from a hard angle, and the rebound made its way to Carter. The center batted his own rebound out of midair from Evgeni Nabokov’s crease and found twine.
The Islanders answered quickly, and Tavares’ second goal of the game gave the visiting team a 3-2 advantage. Matt Moulson cleared the puck out of the zone and Tavares beat Devils captain Bryce Salvador in a footrace to the puck. He was pushed into Brodeur as he shot the puck in.
Tavares registered his fourth multi-point game of the season, totaling two goals and an assist, and is tied for sixth in the NHL with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) through seven games. Nabokov earned the secondary assist on the play, and now has two helpers on the season.
But later in the period, the Devils evened the score again at 3-3 after a long attack in the offensive zone. Henrik Tallinder kept in a clearing attempt just inside the blue line and got the puck right back from Travis Zajac. Tallinder picked the corner with a wrist shot from high in the zone, and the teams went to the second intermission tied.
Midway through the third, New Jersey almost took the lead during their fourth man advantage of the night. David Clarkson looked to have a breakaway and was closing in on Nabokov, but Casey Cizikas closed the gap with a diving effort and knocked the puck into the corner.
The Islanders responded minutes later by taking their third lead of the night. Mark Streit took a bouncing shot from the point that went through traffic and almost caught the stick of Aucoin as it tricked Brodeur at 11:32. David Ullstrom and Cizikas earned the assists on the Islander captain’s third of the season.
Thirty-two seconds later, the game was knotted at 4-4 after a yeoman’s effort by David Clarkson behind the Islanders goal. Clarkson had the puck stripped off his stick in the left circle, but Adam Henrique, playing in his first game of the season, scooped it up and backhanded it past Nabokov.
The Islanders were called for too many men on the ice with 29 seconds left in regulation, but managed to hold the Devils off the board. Nabokov made two of his 28 saves during the penalty kill, and kept the game alive with a big glove save on Patrik Elias at the 19:46 mark of the third.
Following the game, Nabokov offered his view on how the Islanders can maintain their winning ways going forward.
“Game after game we just have to realize what it takes to win and we have to continue to do that because there’s no other way,” Nabokov said. “As soon as we start taking shortcuts we’re going to pay the price. So we just have to realize that and I think we have enough guys here and coaches and they won’t let us let our guard down.”
The Islanders return home Sunday, Feb. 3, when the Devils come to Nassau Coliseum for the third matchup this season between the two teams. Puck drop is slated for 3:00 p.m.
New York Islanders
26 Matt Moulson - 91 John Tavares - 21 Kyle Okposo
40 Michael Grabner - 51 Frans Nielsen - 24 Brad Boyes
41 David Ullstrom - 10 Keith Aucoin - 53 Casey Cizikas
17 Matt Martin - 16 Marty Reasoner - 36 Eric Boulton
2 Mark Streit - 37 Brian Strait
47 Andrew MacDonald – 3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey - 7 Matt Carkner
20 Evgeni Nabokov
39 Rick DiPietro
New Jersey Devils
16 Jacob Josefson - 19 Travis Zajac - 17 Ilya Kovalchuk
8 Dainius Zubrus - 26 Patrik Elias - 23 David Clarkson
20 Ryan Carter - 11 Stephen Gionta - 18 Steve Bernier
22 Krys Barch - 14 Adam Henrique - 12 Matt Anderson
24 Bryce Salvador - 2 Marek Zidlicky
6 Andy Greene - 5 Adam Larsson
7 Henrik Tallinder - 28 Anton Volchenkov
30 Martin Brodeur
1 Johan Hedberg