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‘Comeback’ Not Looking Like a Successful Winning Strategy as Devils Fall to Islanders 5-3.

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Don’t call it a comeback, because it wasn’t one. Apparently allowing your opponent to score 4 goals before you decide to start playing is not ideal.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The Devils game plan has been outpacing teams, but the Islanders come out forcing the pace tonight. A big change from the turtle-speed game we saw from the Islanders last game. The Islanders storm out guns blazing, walk all over the Devils, pen them into our zone, build up the traffic in front of the net, and put one past Blackwood.

Heck of a way to start the game.

The goal against seems to have woke the Devils up, however, and they kick things up a notch. We turn the play back into their zone with the line of Wood, Maltsev, and Bratt, but Smith is unable to hold the zone.

Forcing passes continues to be the hallmark of a bad Devils shift. Every time we get into the offensive zone, we force a bad pass, turn over the puck, and back into the defensive zone we retreat. Another turnover leads to another rally for the Islanders in which Kulikov chases Jordan Eberle through the crease, runs Blackwood over, and the Islanders take advantage of the now-empty net to double their lead. Once again, the Devils start the game almost immediately down 0-2. Maybe we have a comeback kink?

Unfortunately for the Islanders, Pavel Zacha tangles up with Anders Lee driving towards the net. Lee apparently got the bad end of the business and has to be helped off the ice following an apparent leg injury. Bad news for the Islanders, good news for the Devils, as the Islanders captain represents a large portion of their offensive threat.

Unfortunately for the Devils, so does their powerplay. Which we decided to give them. More specifically Ty Smith, for interfering with Jordan Eberle in front of Blackwood. Allegedly. I disagree, but as usual none of the refs listened to me.

However, better news for the Devils is that the Islanders powerplay does not seem to have practiced a whole lot with Matt Martin in place of Anders Lee, and the whole first minute is spent turning the puck over in the neutral zone. 30 seconds of zone time but Zajac gets the clear, and the remaining time killed. Blackwood comes up with a solid save in the waning seconds of the period to keep it a 2 goal game.

The summary of period one? We’re lucky to only be down by 2.

Second Period

The Islanders come out hauling tail in the beginning of a period that could have gone very much like the first period did, but Mackenzie Blackwood singlehandedly decided that’s not going to happen this time and makes an unbelievably good cross-crease toe save about 70 seconds after puck drop.

Palmieri manages to get a shot on Sorokin, but we’re still not spending much time past the red line. Lindy pulled out his blender during the first intermission and changed up the lines again, hoping for a little spark in a team that lacked some pep in their step last period, but I’m not seeing it to start this round. The Devils cannot get the puck cleared out of the zone to save their lives, and it’s even worse when Barzal’s line takes the ice.

Hughes gets into the zone but can’t keep a handle on the puck for more than three feet before it’s picked off and the Islanders spring Matt Barzal, who looks like he’s heading in on a breakaway but Severson defends it perfectly and turns him away emptyhanded.

Halfway through the period and the Devils finally start to get some pressure on Sorokin. Wood brings the puck down the ice and Severson gets a shot off on the rebound. Palmieri gets himself another one before Sorokin can get a hold of the puck to settle things down. Hello, high danger scoring chances! We’ve missed you!

Back down on the other end of the ice, a series of unfortunate events couldn’t write a better sequence of what the hell just happened. The Islanders run the Devils ragged into their own end, Vatanen and Wahlstrom bump into each other and Wahlstrom goes full soccer player and leaps onto Blackwood’s back, the Damon Severson helpfully grabs the loose puck and shoves it directly into the net. The challenge for goalie interference is overruled claiming Vatanen shoved Wahlstrom into the goalie. which is a load of sweaty hockey gear since an even bumping from both players does not create the momentum to swan dive into the goaltender, but nevertheless, the Devils lose the goal and the challenge and get to sit in the penalty box for our troubles.

The Islanders get some good looks including a big shot very early on in their powerplay but the Devils manage to kill the penalty.

Buuuut then Matt Martin hits Damon Severson back in the Devils zone, the Islanders take the puck, make a cross ice pass to Josh Bailey sitting unaccosted (AGAIN) in the slot and hello, 4-0 deficit. Apparently him coming a toenail away from scoring like this at the start of the period did not teach anyone that we should perhaps defend against that.

Great.

Blackwood keeps the game from turning to 5-0 as the period ends with a good save on a quasi- 2 on 0 rush to make the second intermission just slightly less dark and depressing.

Third Period

The third period looks as though it’s going to go the same way as the first two with the Islanders hitting the ice and moving fast, but the Devils have some tricks left up their sleeve.

PK Subban takes a shot from up high (shocking, I know) that actually goes on net (slightly more surprising) that Sorokin makes the initial save on, but Janne Kuokkanen gets the rebound and Sorokin can’t handle it. Devils are on the board 4-1.

But not done yet! Immediately off the ensuing face-off, Mikhail Maltsev walks down the side of the Islanders zone and backhands it through traffic and somehow through Sorokin to put the Devils on the board twice in 40 seconds. 4-2 game.

The Islanders saw the Devils having fun scoring goals and thought hey that looks fun, I wanna try! After a brief time-out, Subban and Kulikov leave Nelson wide open in the middle of the crease (A.G.A.I.N.) and goodbye two-goal deficit, it was nice to see you, come back soon? 5-2 Islanders.

Back on the ice and Matt Martin lifts Ryan Murray’s stick directly into Casey Czikas’s face and somehow we got a 4 minute penalty out of that. And Matt Martin was mad at Murray for it?

I’m not sure I understand this sport anymore.

The Islanders spend the first half of their ridiculous powerplay making even worse passes than the Devils normally do, and somehow we don’t manage to get any kind of shorthanded chance out of them so the first two minutes wanes with little excitement. McLeod steals the puck in the last minute and could’ve created at least a shot out of it but he sat like a lagging video game just until someone was able to be in the shooting lane before shooting it which, predictably, didn’t work.

As the giant and stupid penalty kill wanes down the Islanders take a too many men penalty, so the Devils might have a chance to create some more offense here.

Or not. The Islanders get more grade A chances in the first 20 seconds of their penalty kill than they did on the 4 minutes of powerplay. Spoiler alert, we did not score on the power play.

Final 6 minutes of play, and the Devils are playing harder than they did the first 54. Johnsson, back on the ice after being benched most of the second period again and reunited with Hughes and Bratt, collects the puck in the corner and backhands it to Hughes. Hughes, as he’s falling to his knees, gets the shot off and beats Sorokin to restore the deficit to 2 goals. 5-3 Devils.

Just to ice off the cake, Kyle Palmieri gets a penalty for tripping while his stick hasn’t moved from the position of making a pass, which shouldn’t be a thing but hey why not.

On the penalty kill, Miles Wood trucks his way down the ice for a stray clear, outstrips every Islander with a head start on him, and manages to get a shot off but the angle just isn’t there for it to become anything dangerous. The time winds down, pulling the goalie with 20 seconds left isn’t going to save it, and the Devils fall to the Islanders.

The Game Stats: The NHL.com Game Summary | The NHL.com Event Summary | The NHL.com Play by Play Log | The NHL.com Shot Summary | The Natural Stat Trick Game Stats

The Video Recap That I Guess You Can Watch If You Want To But You Shouldn’t Because It Wasn’t Fun The First Time And This Version Doesn’t Turn Out Any Better:

Post-Game Thoughts

Well. That was exhausting.

You don’t win games with comebacks, no matter how often the Devils seem to be trying that lately. Coming back from down 4-0 is impressive even if the comeback falls short, but it would be way more impressive to not go down that bad in the first place.

Once again we find ourselves with another ‘everyone was bad’ segment. Blackwood got better as the game went on, as he has been doing lately, but he still started bad and kicked off this shooting gallery against us.

Severson, Hughes, Zacha, and Palmieri were all on the ice for 3 goals against.

Hughes, Kuokkanen, Sharangovitch and Kulikov created our only 4 high danger scoring chances of the game. 2 of those were our actual goals.

Severson led the team in giveaways with 3. Hughes and Wood each had 2.

Bastian led the team in hits by far with 5. He did not lead the team in much else.

The positives:

Mikhail Maltsev was the only player with a Corsi that was anything special (68%, 15/7, actually impressive in a game as bad as this was). He was also the only player with 3 shots on net. He also scored a goal by doing the amazingly simple thing of just carrying the puck and then shooting it on net. Hopefully he can teach the remainder of his teammates how to do that, since they seem to have forgotten.

(Besides Subban. Please for the love of all that is holy, somebody tell Subban to stop shooting. I will pay you.)

Zajac continues to trend towards the Zajac we all know and love with 70% wins in the faceoff circle. He was arguably one of the best players during this game and possibly the last few games.

Your Take:

In lieu of thoughts on this game I will accept objects you contemplated throwing through your TV during this game in the comments.