There were 14 seconds in the final 1:39 of Saturday’s Islanders game that silenced the sellout crowd at Nassau Coliseum. In those short ticks off the clock, a solid performance through 58 minutes was not good enough to earn the much needed two points. In 14 seconds, the Islanders relinquished the lead they acquired late in the game, and they fell 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils.
“We felt great for 90 percent of the game,” Mark Streit said. “Then within a couple minutes we threw the game away. When you get punished like that, it hurts.”
David Clarkson snuck the game-tying goal through Anders Nilsson to start the comeback at 18:21, before Marek Zidlicky put the winner in through traffic on the power play at 18:35.
“I think I can have both of the goals,” Nilsson said, adding that he lost the winner in the bodies in front of the net.
Nilsson stopped the first 33 of 35 Devils shots, including a Zach Parise breakaway in the third period. He carried a 118:21 shutout streak against the Devils until Clarkson’s goal.
“We play hockey to win,” Nilsson said when asked about his performance. “Today we didn’t get any points, so it’s hard to be excited.”
Nilsson and Johan Hedberg kept the game scoreless through two periods. Ilya Kovalchuk hit Nilsson’s right post in the second period and Michael Haley, on emergency recall from Bridgeport, had a breakaway, but could not solve Hedberg. New Jersey held a 21-16 edge in shots after 40 minutes and a 35-24 margin at the final horn.
John Tavares scored his 27th goal of the season at 6:46 of the third period to break the scoreless tie. He one-timed a pass from PA Parenteau high short-side on Hedberg.
“Matt [Moulson] made a great play along the wall drawing a couple of guys to him,” Tavares said. “PA came around the net and protected the puck and I just found an open spot. I think Hedberg was looking the other way and I caught him by surprise. It was looking good from there when we got that one.”
Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas were both sidelined Saturday night with the flu. Michael Grabner returned after a three game absence and Dylan Reese played his first game since sustaining an MCL sprain on Feb. 7 against Philadelphia.
After three straight games against the Devils, the Islanders face off against the New York Rangers Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The final regular season meeting between the New York rivals goes at 7 p.m.