Evgeni Nabokov kept the Devils off the board for over 56 minutes of scoreless play, but the Islanders allowed three goals in the closing minutes, losing 3-0 to New Jersey Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.
Steve Bernier scored twice in the span of 1:10 and David Clarkson added an empty-net goal to drop the Islanders to 4-3-1 this season. Evgeni Nabokov made 24 saves on 26 shots, failing to earn the Islanders a standings point for the first time in his last six starts. At the other end of the ice, Johan Hedberg turned aside all 22 Islanders shots faced for his 22nd career shutout.
“I knew it was going to come down to the last five minutes like it always does,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said afterward. “Last year we had a similar situation. But it was a good hockey game. It’s our job to kill the penalties and we didn’t do that at the end.”
Entering the game, the Islanders ranked atop the NHL at 37.5% on the power play, but went 0-for-7 on the man advantage Sunday.
The Islanders best scoring chance of the first two periods came when Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes and Michael Grabner entered the Devils zone on a 3-on-2 with four minutes remaining in the first. Boyes slid a pass into the slot for Grabner, who one-timed the puck into a sliding Johan Hedberg from close range.
Grabner was also responsible for the Islanders’ best chance in the third. With the Islanders playing down a man midway through the frame, Grabner intercepted a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk and raced down the ice on a breakaway. Hedberg made a sliding pad save on the forehand attempt, keeping the game scoreless.
Bernier scored at the 16:06 mark of the third on the power play to put the Devils ahead 1-0. Andy Greene took a shot from the point that was stopped in traffic and trickled to the Devils forward, who buried the opportunity.
A minute later, Ryan Carter fed Bernier from behind the goal for his second tally of the game.
Nabokov was pulled inside the final two minutes, and David Clarkson added his fifth goal of the season with 22 seconds remaining.
Following the game, Andrew MacDonald expressed his frustration with the final score.
“Our power play couldn’t get it done today and we had lots of opportunities,” MacDonald said. “They had their power play goal, so they won the special teams battle. For us, we just didn’t establish any type of forecheck. We had spurts of it, but it certainly wasn’t sustained for the whole 60 minutes.”
The Islanders are back in action Tuesday for a 7 p.m. puck drop against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum. The team’s next seven games will be in the NY/NJ area.
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
36 Eric Boulton - 16 Marty Reasoner - 17 Matt Martin
47 Andrew MacDonald – 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Mark Streit - 37 Brian Strait
14 Thomas Hickey - 7 Matt Carkner
20 Evgeni Nabokov
39 Rick DiPietro
New Jersey Devils
26 Patrik Elias - 19 Travis Zajac - 23 David Clarkson
8 Dainius Zubrus - 14 Adam Henrique - 17 Ilya Kovalchuk
20 Ryan Carter - 11 Stephen Gionta - 18 Steve Bernier
22 Krys Barch - 16 Jacob Josefson - 9 Bobby Butler
24 Bryce Salvador - 28 Mark Fayne
6 Andy Greene - 5 Adam Larsson
28 Anton Volchenkov - 2 Marek Zidlicky
1 Johan Hedberg
30 Martin Brodeur