UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP)—Blake Comeau’s second-period goal snapped a tie and lifted a split-squad of New York Islanders to a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night in the preseason finale for both teams.
After New York’s Josh Bailey and New Jersey’s Zach Parise traded first-period goals, Comeau converted a pass from John Tavares into the go-ahead tally with 2:35 left in the middle period.
The Islanders salvaged their first win of the preseason (1-4) and earned a split of the home-and-home series with the Devils (2-1-3), who earned a 4-3 victory in New Jersey on Friday night. The other half of New York’s roster faced the Montreal Canadiens and lost 7-2 in Quebec on Saturday night.
Rick DiPietro, trying to make yet another comeback from a serious knee injury, went the distance for the Islanders and stopped 25 shots—including a sprawling stick save against Rod Pelley in the final seconds of the second period.
Johan Hedberg also played the whole game for New Jersey, giving No. 1 goalie Martin Brodeur the night off, and made 21 saves.
“I am sure everyone is glad that it’s over,” Devils coach John MacLean said of the preseason, “It’s tough, it’s hard. I felt the effort was good, there was just a couple of things that happened. A couple of breakdowns.”
Islanders 39-year-old captain Doug Weight, limited to 36 games last season because of injury, looked spry in an eventful first period. After nearly setting up a goal in the opening minute and being denied on a break by Hedberg soon after, Weight finally found his way onto the score sheet.
“We didn’t see any of that last year, not even close,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of Weight’s play. “It’s very encouraging because it’s one thing to be a good leader in the room, but I know how hard he wants to be successful—not just lead by example in the room and practice and say all the right things.”
Showing off the passing skills he used to post multiple 50-point seasons in his younger days, Weight made a spin move at the left post and zipped a pass across the crease to Bailey, who on his 21st birthday slammed in his first goal of the preseason at 5:47.
“That goal is a perfect example of how he plays,” Bailey said of Weight. “I tried to float into the right area, and it’s like he had eyes in the back of his head.”
Weight had another scoring chance in the closing moments of the first, but Hedberg turned it aside.
Ilya Kovalchuk propelled New Jersey’s offense in the first, starting with a penalty shot with 6:41 left in the period and then with the primary assist on Parise’s third goal in four preseason games.
Kovalchuk was awarded a penalty shot and appeared to have DiPietro beaten when he streaked to the left and around the prone goalie, who tried to disrupt the play with a sprawling poke check in front. Kovalchuk got past DiPietro, but his backhanded shot toward the net struck the left post and stayed out.
“He was real solid,” Gordon said. “On the penalty shot he did enough to get Kovalchuk to outfake himself, and he made a big save in the slot.”
However, Kovalchuk was right on target moments after his attempt. Kovalchuk fed a perfect left-to-right pass inside the Islanders zone to Parise, who got behind DiPietro and fired a shot into the open right side of the net from a sharp angle to tie it 1-1 with 6:54 remaining in the first.