Josh Bailey scored in the opening minute, and the Islanders led from that point on, skating to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center Monday. The win concludes a 3-1-0 road trip and improves the Islanders to 17-16-3, keeping them tied with the eighth-place New York Rangers with 37 points apiece.
The Islanders controlled the pace early on, but the ice tilted in the Devils favor after the first period. Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 24-of-25 shots to record his 17th win of the season.
“They’re all big,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said of the two standings points. “Every night from here on out, every period, every shift – at this point of the year, it doesn’t come down to structure a whole lot. It comes down to the will to compete and the desperation in your game. In the second period we didn’t have it, and they won the period. But in the third we responded.”
Josh Bailey lit the lamp first with his sixth goal of the season, just 58 seconds into the contest. Frans Nielsen led a 2-on-1 attack and fed the puck across to Bailey, who deked Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur out of position before scoring from his backhand to make it 1-0.
Travis Hamonic extended the Islanders lead to 2-0 with his third tally of the season later in the first. Nielsen won an offensive zone faceoff back to the point, and Hamonic skated to his right before flinging a wrister toward the net. The puck evaded everything on its way past Brodeur’s glove at the 7:14 mark.
“At first I was going to shoot it right away, and then I realized the high forward gave me a little bit too much time,” Hamonic said. “I tried to stutter-step just to get my lane. Josh (Bailey) did a great job screening in front, and obviously Marty didn’t see the puck.”
New Jersey drew within one in the second period, when Alexei Ponikarovsky’s backhand beat Nabokov halfway through the stanza. Patrik Elias skated down the left wing and slid a pass through an Islanders defenseman to his linemate just outside the crease. Nabokov shifted side-to-side, and the puck went in off the inside of his pads.
The Islanders killed off a minor penalty late in the middle period, and headed to intermission with a 2-1 lead. Nine minutes into the third, a power play goal re-established the Islanders two-goal cushion. Lubomir Visnovsky crept down the left wing boards and threw a low shot off Brodeur’s pads. John Tavares was in perfect position at the far post to easily bury the rebound for his 22nd goal of the season.
Brodeur was pulled for an extra attacker with 2:16 remaining, and the Devils pumped three shots on goal from that point on, including one from Andy Greene in the final minute that Nabokov slid to his left to stop.
Following the game, Nabokov said that having a lead for more than 59 minutes was a big boost for the team.
“It feels great – we talked this game’s importance beforehand,” Nabokov said. “We needed this one, because everybody keeps closing gaps. We have to keep looking up. We can’t look behind us. We have to keep climbing the ladder.”
With 12 games remaining, the Islanders head home to take on the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday, April 2, at 7:00.
“It’s a big game,” Hamonic said. “We’re going to be saying that every game from here out. We’ll enjoy tonight’s win for a couple of minutes, but then we have to prepare.”
Notes: The win was the 77th victory of Jack Capuano’s career, tying him for third all-time in Islanders history, four behind Terry Simpson … The Islanders were outshot 25-21 … As of the final buzzer, John Tavares has sole possession of second place in the NHL with 22 goals and nine power play goals … The Islanders power play went 1-for-2, and ranks atop the league in percentage on the road (25.0 %) … Frans Nielsen posted his fourth multiple-assist game of the season, and ranks third on the team with 17 helpers … Matt Martin and Tom Kostopoulos were each given five minutes for fighting at 11:22 of the first period … Matt Martin led the team with four hits … The Islanders blocked 21 shots, with Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky getting in the way of four apiece … Hamonic led the team with 22:23 of ice time.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
New Jersey Devils
12 Alexei Ponikarovsky - 19 Travis Zajac - 23 David Clarkson
26 Patrik Elias - 21 Andrei Loktionov - 18 Steve Bernier
8 Dainius Zubrus - 14 Adam Henrique - 16 Matt D'Agostini
20 Ryan Carter - 11 Stephen Gionta - 25 Tom Kostopoulos
24 Bryce Salvador - 2 Marek Zidlicky
6 Andy Greene - 29 Mark Fayne
7 Henrik Tallinder - 10 Peter Harrold
30 Martin Brodeur
1 Johan Hedberg