The Devils got out to a defensive start, getting hemmed in by the Islanders’ checking line early on. Scott Wedgewood, in for MacKenzie Blackwood, had to make a couple saves in the first two minutes. However, the Islanders were kept to the outside of the zone, mostly, and the Devils got on the forecheck, taking the puck past the two-minute mark. They never really got into the offensive zone, and turned it over, forcing Wedgewood to make a glove save on the rush two and a half minutes in.
Kyle Palmieri had an opportunity to have a two-on-one with Miles Wood, but he held onto the puck too long and allowed Nick Leddy to break up the rush. On the following shift, Sami Vatanen failed to make enough of an impact in the neutral zone while trying to chip the puck back toward the offensive zone. The puck instead went toward Scott Wedgewood, who had to play the puck out of his net to prevent a breakaway.
The Islanders continued to have all the pressure early, and Sebastian Aho blasted a slap shot from the wall, which deflected off Kieffer Bellows and into the net. There wasn’t anything Scott Wedgewood could do, but Damon Severson was on the wrong side of the crease. 1-0, Islanders.
Andy Greene then took a two-minute penalty for delay of game, as he chipped the puck over the glass behind Ilya Sorokin’s net five minutes into the period - before the Devils even had a shot on goal. On the power play, Damon Severson shot it from the point with Kyle Palmieri setting the screen, and Janne Kuokkanen crashed for the rebound and scored off a backhand shot. 1-1, and a power play goal. Palmieri was credited with an assist for deflecting the shot from Severson.
Janne Kuokkanen was later called for a penalty for taking down Sebastian Aho while they were chasing a puck into the corner of the Devils’ offensive zone. The Devils seemed to touch the puck, but no whistle was blown until the puck got all the way to the Devils’ defensive zone. I did not see any penalty on the play, but Kuokkanen was called for tripping.
Scott Wedgewood wasn’t tested early in the Islanders power play, but he did have to deal with Brock Nelson in front of the net. No Devils defenseman was low enough to deal with him, and Nelson had a few seconds to do whatever he wanted - but Wedgewood made the stop. The Devils mostly frustrated the Islanders’ breakout for the rest of the penalty after a clear, though, and play returned to five-on-five with the game still tied.
The Islanders took a penalty for slashing, as Nick Leddy tagged P.K. Subban when he was working down low in the corner of the Devils’ offensive zone. Gusev and Severson played catch on the left side of the zone, before Severson shot off the glass about 20 seconds in. His next shot attempt was blocked 43 seconds in. The Devils quickly re-entered, and Pavel Zacha just couldn’t line up a one-timer as Gusev’s pass was too far in front. With the second unit on, Miles Wood took a hooking penalty with just over six and a half minutes to play in the period and 22 seconds remaining in the penalty. It was a blatant hook, and it bailed out the Islanders when Austin Czarnik was on the ice after blocking a shot from Jack Hughes.
At four-on-four, Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes almost got on the attack, but lost the puck just as the Islanders power play started. They got off for Zajac and Sharangovich, and a pass across Wedgewood was deflected off Vatanen’s stick right to Wedgewood, who had to make a save. After the penalty expired, Wedgewood had to make several saves on Islanders shots and deflections just in front and to the side of the net, with huge saves on Nelson and Wahlstrom in particular.
Pavel Zacha made an amazing defensive play on the backcheck, as a pinch by Ty Smith failed to maintain possession for the New Jersey Devils. With Mat Barzal about to receive a pass on a two-on-one, Zacha dove and deflected the pass with his outstretched stick. Zacha swung his stick at the perfect time after getting around Kieffer Bellows, who tried to slow him down in the neutral zone, to keep the game at 1-1.
Of course, the Devils cannot just keep anything good going. Brock Nelson turned and shot from far out on the wall near the blue line, getting past a triple screen in front and past Wedgewood to make the game 2-1 with one second remaining in the period. After one, the Islanders had the lead and were outshooting the Devils 15-6, including 13-4 at even strength. Scott Wedgewood made seven high danger saves on eight high danger shots that period, and the second goal was a lucky goal for the Islanders. But when you get 15 shots in a period, you’re allowed to be lucky.
The Devils managed to push the Islanders back early in the period, getting their first good shot from Travis Zajac just after a minute and a half had passed in the period. However, they did not maintain possession long, and the Devils failed to mount a counterattack with the Hughes line on the first attempt. On their second, Jesper Bratt got a poor shot on goal, and Andreas Johnsson lost the puck along the wall. On their third entry, Bratt and Johnsson got off for Bastian and Gusev, and the Devils had to re-enter after being chased from their offensive zone to behind Wedgewood. Mikhail Maltsev then got a shot on the rush, which was knocked down by Sorokin. On the counterattack, Dmitry Kulikov took a tripping call for taking down Matt Martin as he drove the net with just under four minutes played in the period.
Pavel Zacha took the draw with Travis Zajac on his wing, with Severson and Vatanen on defense. Scott Wedgewood played the puck off the draw around the back of his net, and Severson picked it up and cleared it. The Islanders came quickly back, setting up before 30 seconds had elapsed. A Mat Barzal pass across the goal was wide, however, and the Islanders had to re-enter as 45 seconds had passed. Mat Barzal rebounded a shot from the side of goal, causing Wedgewood to go down - and a rebound attempt from Nelson deflected off of Severson. The Islanders set back up, and Scott Wedgewood had to make a couple saves and Severson made another block before the Devils could get a clear. Play was stopped with three seconds left in the penalty, as Wedgewood had an equipment issue after being crashed into earlier in the penalty. The Devils cleared the puck just as the penalty expired, and it went into the benches, giving the Islanders an offensive zone draw at even strength - but that led to nothing.
Mikhail Maltsev had the Devils’ best even strength chance of the game so far with 10 minutes and 30 seconds to play, as a puck was turned over right to Maltsev in the slot. Maltsev ripped the puck, but Sorokin saved it with his arm.
The Devils’ third line continued to make magic, as after several rough shifts in which the Islanders and Devils played back-and-forth between zones, Yegor Sharangovich intercepted a pass and tried to connect with Janne Kuokkanen for a deflection. It went wide, but Travis Zajac played it back, and the puck got back to Sharangovich, who pulled back for a hard shot from the high slot, which got past Sorokin with under four minutes remaining. 2-2, with Kuokkanen setting the screen. P.K. Subban and Dmitry Kulikov got the assists.
YS! YS! YS!— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 14, 2021
: Kulikov pic.twitter.com/q4zUAMAWBm
As Scott Wedgewood saved a shot from Ryan Pulock with under two minutes to play and covered it with Kieffer Bellows and Jordan Eberle in front, Severson got into a tangle with Bellows and dropped his gloves. However, the scrum that developed prevented a fight from breaking out and both went off for minor roughing. At four-on-four, Jack hughes blasted a slap shot on a loose puck with no one around him, and the puck squirted past Sorokin but not enough, as it was taken by the Islanders from the crease. The period ended with the game tied at 2-2, as the Devils trailed in shots 25-18.
In the third period, Travis Zajac took the ice with Jack Hughes, losing the faceoff and changing immediately for Jesper Bratt. Back at five-on-five, the Devils tried to breakout and turned it over in the neutral zone, forcing Scott Wedgewood to make a save on Brock Nelson on the rush. The puck went out of play.
Scott Wedgewood made back-to-back saves past the five minute mark of the period, with a great glove save off a rebound low in the zone. Brock Nelson, from the slot, set Josh Bailey up for a sharp angle one-timer on the second shot and save. After the bad goal by Nelson at the end of the first, Scott Wedgewood remained on his game for the New Jersey Devils.
With the fourth line on, a referee blew the whistle right off the draw, and Dmitry Kulikov took a slap shot that went past Sorokin into the net off a deflection from Mikhail Maltsev. However, Nathan Bastian went off for a terrible interference call, and the game remained 2-2 with the Islanders heading to the power play. There was absolutely no reason to make the call, as Bastian was just positioning in the high slot off the draw.
On the penalty kill, Scott Wedgewood had to make a save on a cutting Nick Leddy in the slot with 45 seconds passed in the penalty. After the draw, Jesper Bratt made a great block high in the zone, and the Islanders fought to keep the puck for about 15 seconds before Pavel Zacha could get a clear. Late in the power play, the Devils cleared the puck and play returned to even strength.
After some end-to-end play, the Devils’ third line got some sustained zone time that amounted to nothing except a point shot, and after a change Jack Hughes turned the puck over in the defensive zone. The Islanders barreled over Scott Wedgewood, miraculously avoiding a penalty call as the referees swallowed their whistles for the Islanders after the first period.
With two and a half minutes to play, the Hughes line won a draw but quickly turned the puck over, ending up having to defend against the Islanders’ checking line, as Scott Wedgewood saved a point shot from Cal Clutterbuck that was deflected by Casey Cizikas. With the Zacha line against Brock Nelson’s line, the Islanders got multiple shot attempts. In the final minute, the Devils’ third line came onto the ice, and Travis Zajac won possession behind Sorokin shortly before the Islanders jumped on his pass. In the final 30 seconds, the Hughes line came back on, but a pass from Damon Severson went right past Bratt and back to the Islanders, who were content to hold on for overtime.
In a game that could have ended with a game winning goal by Mikhail Maltsev, the Devils had to play for an overtime win instead. Lindy Ruff sent out Travis Zajac, Pavel Zacha, and P.K. Subban against Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvilier, and Nick Leddy. After winning the draw, Zajac got off for Bratt. After a stretch pass from P.K. Subban from behind Wedgewood to Pavel Zacha, Zacha eluded all three Islanders in the zone and criss-crossed with Jesper Bratt, who threatened shot and played it over to P.K. Subban, who wound up for a slap shot that went past Sorokin.
However, the players did not leave the ice, as the situation room reviewed the play for whether Jesper Bratt was offsides. Of course, the Devils would have to win the game a third time.
Back on the ice, Travis Zajac played at Zacha’s wing and stayed on the ice for a short bit as the Devils set up. Back on the ice for Zajac, Bratt lead the breakout as Damon Severson replaced Subban. Bratt’s shot went wide, and the Islanders counterattacked. Pulock’s shot went wide and out of the zone. On their second attempt, Barzal’s shot was deflected wide. On their third attempt, Scott Wedgewood denied Cizikas on a backdoor attempt. With Sharangovich on with Kuokkanen and Subban, Josh Bailey’s shot was broken up by P.K. Subban in the slot, and the Islanders were called for hooking with 2:24 to play. Brock Nelson hooked Zacha’s hands.
At four-on-three, the Devils called timeout. Lindy Ruff sent out Nikita Gusev, Pavel Zacha, Kyle Palmieri, and Jack Hughes. The Devils won the draw, and the firt shot was blocked from Gusev. Pavel Zacha got the second attempt from the high slot, and it was frozen by Sorokin. Nikita Gusev cut into the slot off the second draw, and couldn’t beat Sorokin on his shot. After the third faceoff, a Zacha one-timer was denied. The Devils had good puck movement, but couldn’t pressure Sorokin directly. Kyle Palmieri missed on a last second redirect from Pavel Zacha - and players who get re-signed score that goal. The game went to shootout instead.
Nikita Gusev took the first attempt. He went in slow and wide, and scored on a very deliberate shot. There was no deke, no fake - just a shot. 1-0.
Jordan Eberle took the Islanders’ first. He went in quick, and Wedgewood gloved it high out of the goal.
Jesper Bratt took the Devils’ second. After a lengthy delay for a stuck goal light behind Sorokin, Bratt took the ice. He went in quick, used no fake moves, and his shot hit the pad.
Mat Barzal got his chance to tie. He went quick, and ran out of room as Wedgewood gave no movement on his fake.
Pavel Zacha went third for the Devils. With a chance to seal it, his backhand went on egde and wide.
Anthony Beauvilier went third for the Islanders. He went wide, and scored off the post. 1-1.
Jack Hughes went in sudden-death. He went wide, slowed up, and ran out of room.
Oliver Wahlstrom went fourth for the Islanders, and he scored on a quick shot.
If Not One, the Other: This Game Should Have Been Over
It’s one thing for the referees to blow a call and a game get extended. For two goals to get waved off is a load of hot garbage. But that’s just the performance the referees gave tonight, with their awful call on Nathan Bastian that prevented the Devils from going out to a 3-2 lead in the third. After not making up for the call despite some opportunities to do so, including a blatant goalie run by Leo Komarov, the game went to overtime. When the Devils won on the first shift, the Islanders were ready to go to the locker room when the NHL decided to keep the game going even longer. After squinting at a far-side angle at Jesper Bratt’s skate, frame by frame, looking closely at a pixelated image, the referees called - whether or not they were told to call it by Toronto - offsides on the goal. Perhaps the buzz from that winning streak was just too much to lose. For the changes they made to offsides to make it less disruptive, they decided to resurrect this game to see if the result could still change.
Could the Devils have lost this fairly? Sure, but they didn’t this time. I have nobody to call out in particular, except Sami Vatanen didn’t really clean up his game today (and nearly scored on Wedgewood), and Andreas Johnsson continued to be invisible. Scott Wedgewood was great. The Devils showed fight after the first period, but the NHL ripped this result from them twice.
Don’t blame Lindy Ruff for this result. For once, you don’t even have to blame Mark Recchi or Alain Nasreddine, who got a positive special teams result tonight. You can consider blaming Kyle Palmieri, who failed to convert on a wide-open redirection opportunity. But aside from that, I wouldn’t blame you if you just totally disregarded this game. The result was utter crap, and does not reflect what happened on the ice. Scott Wedgewood deserved a win tonight, and either Mikhail Maltsev or P.K. Subban - take your pick - deserved a game winning goal.
This is a young team, and they did what they were supposed to do tonight. However, the NHL did not hold up their end of the bargain. They are the group that needs to get their crap together, and teach their referees what is and what is not interference (like, for example, running over a goaltender as opposed to existing during a faceoff) - as well as not choose to interrupt a finished result for a frame-by-frame, not-really-conclusive offsides review. Take a hint from the NFL, don’t waste your time with that garbage, and accept the call on the ice. While you’re at it, just stop reviewing goals for offsides. The NHL knows where to put this result.
What did you think of tonights game? I can guess. But still, leave your thoughts in the comments below.