Reunions can be so bitter sweet. It doesn’t matter if the split was amicable or not, one side is always going to feel a little jilted. And when the two sides reconvene for the first time, things can be…a bit awkward. (That’s putting it nicely).
Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders and Devils met for the first time since swinging a trade several weeks ago that sent Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, two Devils stalwarts, to Long Island. Things haven’t been pretty for Palmieri and Zajac since trading in their red for a combination of blue and orange. And on this night, it was the Devils who came out ahead as they beat the Islanders 2-1.
Entering the game against the Devils, Palmieri, who was the big-ticket attraction on the trade market, had appeared in 14-games as a member of the Islanders and tallied just one-goal, two-assists (for three-points), a minus-two rating and had seen his average ice time fall to 14:09.
Meanwhile, Zajac entered Thursday’s game having played 11-games with the Islanders (he’d been a healthy scratch several times) and had accumulated a scant one-goal, one-assist (for two-points) and a plus-one rating in 15:10 of average ice time.
Those are stark declines from the numbers and ice time afforded to them while with New Jersey and it has been very apparent that they are still adjusting to the reduced roles and different system deployed by the Islanders. It is very important, with just two games remaining in the regular-season after tonight that Palmieri and Zajac find their comfort zones fast as they will be leaned upon heavily during what the Nassaumen hope is a deep playoff run.
However, it was a nice touch by Head Coach Barry Trotz to start Palmieri and Zajac, along with a returning Mathew Barzal, against the Devils to get the emotional moment out of the way early.
After the emotional moment was through, the Boys from Long Island took control of the game for much of the first-half of the opening period as they ran out to a 6-1 shots on goal advantage and were out-hitting New Jersey 11-4. But then things started to shift in the Devils’ favor and after several moments of keeping the puck in deep against the Islanders, Pavel Zacha was able to sneak one past Semyon Varlamov for the opening goal of the game. 1-0 Devils.
That goal firmly established the Devils as being in control over the second-half of the period as New Jersey ended up outshooting New York 12-8 in the period and held the Nassaumen to just two shots in the final 11-minutes of the period.
Then came the second period and initially the Islanders didn’t seem to have much going for themselves. But then came the hot-handed Anthony Beauvillier and that all changed.
With 5:35 gone in the middle period, the Islanders gained entry to the Devils’ zone and Brock Nelson got the puck over to Scott Mayfield. Mayfield carried down the right-side and sent a pass to the middle in the direction of Beauvillier. The puck deflected off Beauvillier and shot past MacKenzie Blackwood for the game-tying goal. 1-1. For Beauvillier, it was his fifth-goal in as many games and that’s a good sign he’s peaking at the right time.
Just 14-seconds later though, Braydon Coburn was called for cross-checking Michael McLeod to stop the Isles’ momentum dead in its tracks as the team went to the penalty-kill. However, the Nassaumen’s stout penalty-kill came through once again and late in the kill, Brock Nelson got a hold of the puck in New Jersey’s zone and broke in alone on Blackwood. But before Nelson could attempt a shot, he was hooked by Damon Severson to prevent the dangerous scoring chance.
So, the teams played four-aside for 27-seconds before the Boys from Long Island had a truncated power-play opportunity. Unfortunately, that power-play chance came and went without much fuss and the game remained tied at 1-1 heading into the latter stages of the second period.
While the Isles didn’t score on their brief power-play they did start to skate much better and were generating better chances for several minutes, which was a welcome development compared to how the team was playing at the same point in the first period.
That all came crashing to a halt though when Damon Severson sent a cross-ice pass deep in the Isles’ zone to Michael McLeod, who beat Scott Mayfield to the spot and put the puck in the net against Varlamov, who had no chance on the play. 2-1 Devils with 4:29 left in the second period.
And that’s how the score remained when the game headed to its second intermission.
But before we get to the third period, I should note, McLeod was called for high-sticking Casey Cizikas at the 20:00 minute mark of the second and therefore, the Nassaumen started the third period on the power-play.
The power-play afforded the Islanders three quality scoring chances but the team was unable to convert on any of them as Blackwood stood tall.
From there the Boys from Long Island had some sporadic chances to score, even outshooting the Devils in the period — as well as the game — but it was just one of those nights where the opposing team’s goaltender was better as the Islanders fell 2-1. It was their third straight loss.
Now, this is not to say the Isles should just meekly tip their caps to Blackwood, even though he did an excellent job controlling the rebounds and swallowing up the shots that came his way; however, the Nassaumen did not do nearly enough to generate second-chance opportunities or do anything to get Blackwood out of his comfort zone.
So, you could say the opposing goalie stymied the Islanders and you could also say the Islanders didn’t do enough to win this game. That all depends on how you view the world. I will say this though, something needs to change otherwise the Boys from Long Island will be making summer plans sooner than they’d like and that’s something nobody wants.
The Isles went 0-for-2 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 25-for-140…The Isles went 1-for-1 on the penalty-kill to bring their season tally to 108-for-129…Matt Martin and Mathew Barzal tagged back in while Jordan Eberle took a seat along with Andy Greene, Michael Dal Colle and Leo Komarov…Anthony Beauvillier’s second period goal was his fifth in as many games…The Isles have lost three straight.
Saturday May 8th Islanders vs Devils at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).