Stellar goaltending and a willingness to block shots powered the New Jersey Devils to a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders Friday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders, who have been shutout in three of their last four, had a chance to take the lead early with three powerplays, but could not covert. The Devils scored on their first of two man advantages.
“We got to work on the PP [powerplay],” Captain Mark Streit said. “We did a lot of good things, but there are things we can do better, and we need to be better especially against teams like Jersey.”
Michael Grabner had the Islanders best chance to tie the game, a shorthanded penalty shot at 12:50 of the third period. The breakaway was vintage Grabner, but Johan Hedberg would flash the leather, robbing him on the backhand. Earlier in the game, Hedberg’s diving pokecheck would save another breakaway for the Austrian forward.
“It’s not just the breakaway and the penalty shot, I think I had a lot of open chances in the slot and I just have to find a way to score at least one,” Grabner said.
The Devils blocked their way out of the first period, clogging up lanes and frustrating the Islanders three powerplay chances. The Islanders got eight shots through in the first frame, but nine were blocked.
Peter Sykora broke the scoreless tie at 14:13 of the second period on the powerplay. Defenceman Adam Larsson’s stick exploded on a point shot with the puck landing on Sykora’s blade in the slot. The Czech forward made no mistake burying it past Al Montoya blocker side.
“Great shot,” Montoya said. “You hope to have that shot, but those are the ones that if he puts it in the right spot, I’m alright with.”
Hedberg continued to be a solid backup for Marty Brodeur, stopping 23 shots for the shutout. Montoya turned aside 22 of 23.
“Their goalie played a heck of a game. He made some big saves,” Montoya said.
Call up Michael Haley dropped the gloves with Devils enforcer Cam Janssen less than two minutes into the game. It was the Isles first fight since Nov. 15. and brought the crowd of 15,358 to their feet.
The Islanders and Devils will finish off their home and home series as the teams have a rematch tomorrow afternoon at Prudential Center at 1:00 p.m.