The New Jersey Devils got off on the right foot in this shortened 48-game season, defeating the New York Islanders 2-1 in Long Island.
The game winner, coming off the stick of David Clarkson, came at 8:17 in the third period. In a game that didn’t provide the pace and natural flow of an NHL game without a prolonged offseason, it certainly seemed like one New Jersey would be content playing in all year, relying on defense and goaltending to get it done.
In the first period, New Jersey seemed to dictate the pace, was defensively sound, and outshot the Islanders 9-3. Although the period ended scoreless, New Jersey had to feel comfortable with the way they came out in the years first period.
The Devils finally got on the board with 6 minutes left in the second period, taking advantage of a 3-on-1 situation caused by a bad line change. Ilya Kovalchuk, coming down the left-hand side of the ice, feathered a pass across a sprawling Islanders defenseman, landing the puck right on the tape of Travis Zajac who roofed it over netminder Evgeni Nabokov. It was good to see both Kovalchuk, who is clearly in form from playing in Russia, and Zajac, who just signed an 8-year extension, producing right away.
The Islanders didn’t get many exceptional scoring opportunities, but one of their best came in the opening seconds of the third period. Islanders forward Michael Grabner, who was alone in the slot, received a pass from the corner but was stoned cold by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Brodeur, who showed little signs of rust in his first game since last June, was up to the task all night, stopping 18 of the 19 shots he faced.
With 13 minutes left to play in the third and the Islanders on the power play, New York finally found the back of the net. With the puck caught in a scrum along the boards and all four of New Jerseys penalty killers in the corner fighting for it, defenseman Travis Hamonic received a pass alone in the slot and wired it past Brodeur glove side.
About a minute later, David Clarkson took a pass from Patrik Elias at the top of the right-wing circle in the Islanders zone and buried it five-hole on Nabokov, putting New Jersey back on top 2-1, a lead they would not give up.
The Islanders began to test Brodeur more in the late minutes of the third, but Marty held down the fort. Brodeur had key saves on a shot from Matt Moulson in the slot and a slap shot from Hamonic at the point, preserving the victory.
New Jerseys next game is Tuesday, January 22nd, the home opener against Philadelphia. The Flyers are 0-2, coming off back-to-back losses against Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
- Final shots were 28-19 in favor of New Jersey.
- The power play was off to a slow start, going 0-2 under new offensive-minded assistant Matt Shaw.
- Rookie Stefan Matteau, who wore number 15 and made the Devils opening-night roster out of training camp, saw just over 7 minutes of ice time on the fourth line with Jacob Josefson and Cam Janssen, while also putting 3 shots on net.
About the Author
Written by Mike Mastrandrea
Mike Mastrandrea is currently a Junior at Indiana University studying Sports Communication and Marketing. He was raised in New Jersey and is a dedicated New Jersey Devils, New York Jets, New York Mets, and Indiana Hoosiers fan. Mike's other interests include movies, hanging out with friends, and Chel.