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No Lead is Safe, Devils Flip Islanders by Sean Cuthbert

Hockey This Week

Hockey This Week

March 10th, 2012

Final Score from Uniondale: Devils 2, Islanders 1

It was Déjà vu all over again for the Islanders and Devils tonight, as Anders Nilsson was once again triumphant in a 1-0 victory over the frustrated fellows from New Jersey.  He stood tall (unavoidable at 6’5”), cool, and collected as he turned aside 30 shots by the Devils at the Nassau Coliseum.  It was even more impressive than his last shutout last Sunday, as he faced quite a few more prime scoring opportunities this time around.

Just as I was about to wrap up my “Return of the Jedi” headline paying homage to trilogies and praising Anders Nilsson for back-to-back 1-0 shutout wins, the Islanders managed to do the unthinkable (at least for any team that doesn’t call Long Island home).  They found a way to provide a delayed encore to their late game breakdown to the Washing Capitals just over a week ago, with an even more shocking collapse to the Devils tonight.  With only 1:39 remaining, New Jersey flipped the game upside down within a 14 second span.

The first period saw no scoring, with each team trading unsuccessful power plays.  The Islanders came out with more energy than they did Thursday night, but they were unable to crack Johan Hedberg, whose “Moose” nickname could be heard raining down from visiting Devil fans.  Hedberg turned aside nine shots, including some point blank chances in front by Matt Moulson and Nino Niederreitter, while Anders Nilsson extended his shutout streak over the Devils to four periods after facing only six shots.

After forty minutes, tonight’s game was playing out much like Sunday’s 1-0 contest.  It was another shutout period, with opportunities had and missed on both ends of the ice.  It became a bit of a goaltender’s duel with Nilsson and Hedberg trading impressive saves on some golden opportunities.

John Tavares was robbed point blank on a toe save by Hedberg, and the “Moose” rose to the occasion again when Michael Haley was sprung for a breakaway that ended with the puck in Hedberg’s catching glove.  Nilsson had some nifty glove saves of his own, and found himself hugging posts on shots coming from all angles by the Devils, including wraparound attempts by David Clarkson and Jacob Josefson.

The teams exchanged power plays once again, but both penalty killing units did not allow much and kept the scoresheet clean.  The difference in the second period though, was the Devils finding more zone time that led to 14 shots on goal and plenty of trouble for the Islanders in their own zone.  It hurt them particularly with only ten seconds remaining when Mark Eaton was called for holding Alexei Ponikarovsky to give the Devils a power play to start the third.

The Isles would kill off their opening penalty, but the Devils controlled much of the play in the third.  Despite that fact, the Islanders top line managed to win a faceoff down low that led to a goal from in close by John Tavares at 6:46.  Moulson fed the puck to PA Parenteau behind the net, who then found Tavares in front where he roofed the puck past Hedberg to give the Isles a 1-0 lead.

On the continued solid play of Nilsson, the Islanders kept the slate clean and prevented the Devils from coming back after the go-ahead goal.  ..That was of course until late in the game, better known as the twilight zone in Islander country.  It was then that David Clarkson would squeeze a turnaround shot through Nilsson to the tie game at one and blow the minds of fans across the Tri-State area.

The insanity would not end there though, because just after the tying goal, PA Parenteau would take an extremely ill-advised, offensive zone cross-checking penalty to give the Devils a power play only eight seconds later at 1:31.  The Devils would win the ensuing faceoff to get the puck to Mared Zidlicky at the point.  Heads then exploded when Zidlicky blasted a shot that got past Nilsson and into the net for the 2-1 lead and Zidlicky’s first goal as a Devil.

And just like that, what seemed like a sure two points became a crushing defeat that added about three or four exclamation points to the end of the Islanders post-season hopes.  The jury is still out on how the they are to solve this seemingly persistent problem, but until they do, heads will continue to explode from Valley Stream to Montauk and beyond.

Notes

  • Dylan Reese had a solid effort on defense by playing the body and keeping Ilya Kovalchuk in check
  • The Islanders dominated faceoffs 31-16, but as we all know, it wasn’t enough
  • The Islanders mustered only one goal in each game of the NYI/NJD trilogy
  • Anders Nilsson deserved a much better result, as he appears to be another bright spot in the Islanders future
  • The win marks three in a row for the Devils and four in their last five games

Sean Cuthbert
Hockey This Week

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at scuthbert@hockeythisweek.com for words of slander or admiration.

Also be sure to follow me on twitter @HTW_Sean for insights, updates, and general goof balling.

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