The Islanders penalty kill was their Achilles Heel on Saturday afternoon, as the team allowed four power-play goals and dropped a 6-1 decision to the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum.
Kyle Okposo scored the lone goal for the Islanders, but the shorthanded unit, which had only allowed one power-play in its last eight games, conceded goals on three of the Devils first four power-play opportunities.
“[The loss] wasn’t anything other than the penalty kill,” Evgeni Nabokov said. “The goaltender is a part of it and it wasn’t good enough.”
Adam Henrique opened the scoring on the Devils first power play, crashing the net hard for a rebound off a Michael Ryder shot. The goal ended a good run for the Isles, who had killed 21-of-22 prior to puck drop.
Despite giving up the opening goal, the Islanders largely pushed the pace in the first 20 minutes, generating odd-man rushes and quality scoring chances against the stingy Devils. The Isles went on to outshoot the Devils 10-8 in the opening frame.
“I thought we came out of the first in really good shape,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We were structured, we were doing the right things, we didn’t give them any chances. We didn’t respond after the power-play goals and if you give up four in a game, you’re not going to win.”
The ice tilted in the Devils’ favor in the second period, as they scored four goals on 11 shots. Jaromir Jagr opened the period with his 700th career goal – a deflection off of Brian Strait’s skate – at 3:31 and added an assist later in the frame.
Just over a minute after Jagr’s milestone, Henrique set up Ryan Clowe for a one-timer with a no-look backhand pass, 10 seconds into the man advantage. Clowe beat Nabokov high-glove side putting the Devils up 3-0.
“For me, it’s about the first eight seconds [of a power play],” Capuano said. “We had chances to pressure in the first eight seconds before they got set up and we didn’t. We allowed some seams that we normally don’t allow.”
Okposo put the Islanders on the board with his 25th of the season, deflecting a Thomas Vanek shot past Martin Brodeur. The momentum was quickly stalled, as Marek Zidlicky’s power-play marker reestablished the three-goal lead. Mark Fayne scored the Devils fifth goal – on their 16th shot – at 14:54 of the second.
“I thought that fourth one put a dagger in us,” Okposo said. “We need to keep going as a team, work a little bit harder than that. We’re going to come back tomorrow and play better.”
The Islanders vented their frustrations in the back half of the game, picking up four misconducts in what was a chippy finale. Josh Bailey and Eric Boulton each picked up 10-minute misconducts, while Travis Hamonic tied a team record with 32 penalty minutes in a single period (two fighting majors, two 10-minute misconducts and an instigator minor).
“We were sticking up for each other at the end, which is good to see,” Calvin de Haan said.
Anders Nilsson, who was recalled Saturday morning, relieved Nabokov in the third period. Nilsson was busy, stopping 15-of-16 shots, as the Islanders played the final 4:37 on the penalty kill. Eric Gelinas rounded out the scoring for the Devils with a power-play goal in the final minute.
The Islanders wrap up the back-to-back weekend set against the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Puck drop is at 3:00 p.m.
NOTES: The Islanders outhit the Devils 47-20… Colin McDonald (7), Cal Clutterbuck (6), Anders Lee (6) and Calvin de Haan (5) each had five or more hits… Thomas Vanek and Anders Lee led the Islanders with three shots each… Travis Hamonic picked up two fighting majors in the third period… Brian Strait led the Islanders with 21:02 TOI.