Jaroslav Halak & Nick Leddy will return to the lineup tonight as your New York Islanders visit the New Jersey Devils for their final meeting of the season. The Isles will be looking to end their 4 game losing streak and finish a season sweep of the Devils to close ground on the Rangers, who now hold a 5 point lead in the division. Tonight is a must win for New York who will face Minnesota, LA, Anaheim & Detroit next week. Calvin de Haan is the healthy scratch for Leddy’s return.
Bailey-Tavares-Okposo, Lee-Nelson-Strome, Kulemin-Nielsen-Kennedy, Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck.
Leddy-Boychuk, Hickey-Hamonic, Strait-Donovan.
Jaro Halak is in net with Michal Neuvirth backing up.
In the first period, the Isles come out with their expended jump and Halak standing tall from the start. Nikolay Kulemin forces a turnover of Gelinas and Ryan Strome (Kulemin) gets his first goal in 8 games (15th of ssn) giving the Isles a 1-0 lead. Yes! Chants rain down at the rock. The Isles look refreshed and the Devils have resorted to their smothering trap style of play. Jaroslav Halak making his presence felt with a few big saves late in the period to preserve the lead and the kid line looking good. Strome & Kulemin making things happen throughout the period. Isles hold a 13-9 shots advantage.
The Devils and Islanders exchange shots of the post to start the second period. By the middle of the period, Halak is putting on a clinic with a myriad of huge saves. Now I am all about the clinic Halak is putting on, but the Isles need to score some goals here and soon. Devils have a pretty good goalie as well in Schneider. Isles PK with a big kill on Hamonic’s Hook on Zubrus. Devils with an 11-10 edge in the period, Isles hold a 21-10 advantage after 2.
After a back and forth start to the third period, Jaro makes two huge saves off a Devils 2 on 1 chance to preserve the lead. Casey Cizikas with an awesome feed and Matt Martin goes down hard after being interfered with by Gionta as he went for the shot. Skates off to the bench in obvious pain. Isles generate good pressure on the PP and Travis Hamonic (Strome & Nelson) converts (5th of ssn) off a nice Ryan Strome feed as it expires, 2-0 Islanders. Visiting fans Yes! Chant echoes through the sold out arena again. Devils call Schneider to the bench with 2:39 remaining. Isles call a timeout with 49.6 seconds remaining, Kyle Okposo (Tavares) scores the ENG, 3-0 Isles. John Tavares now tied (Ovechkin) for league lead in points with 73. Shots were 9-6 Isles in the third and 30-26 in the game. Isles PP was 0/1 and their PK, 1/1. Isles sweep Devils in season series.
The Islanders had their struggles tonight, but they worked hard and found a way to convert that into a productive scoring effort. They were good enough on defense to help secure the shutout for their goaltender who played out of his mind tonight after returning from injury. Jaro Halak (26 saves) got his 5th shutout and franchise leading 35th win of the ssn, was the primary reason for the Isles win tonight. Halak has moved into a third place tie for wins among NHL goaltenders. Ryan Strome was awesome throughout the game and had 2 pts on the night. Both were named stars of the game and deservedly so. Nikolay Kulemin has been a consistent, but quiet force for the Isles as well. Nick Leddy was quietly effective for the Isles after missing the last 4 games. It should be noted that Matt Donovan & Brian Strait played a good game tonight as well.
This was a big win, ended the skid and got the Isles going in the right direction heading into a tough week ahead. The Isles should only get better as players return to the lineup and they are able to rest up and retool their game at 44-25-4 with 92 pts.
Per Rich DeKorte, “Strome: "We knew to get off this losing skid it was gonna be kind of a greasy game. We battled pretty hard I thought."
Minnesota comes to the NVMC on Tuesday.
Michal Neuvirth's new Isles mask.