Islanders lethargic in 4-1 loss to Devils, end season-opening homestand on low note

Islanders Matt Martin
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Perhaps the Islanders were thinking ahead to a vital road trip down in Florida against two of the NHL’s best in the Panthers and Lightning because they certainly didn’t look into it on Thursday night at UBS Arena against the New Jersey Devils.

The Islanders were thoroughly dominated in a 4-1 loss, dropping them to 2-2-0 on the season as they now face a difficult five-game stretch that includes the Floridian teams, the New York Rangers, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche. 

“I wasn’t happy with the compete level,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said.

Ondrej Palat scored twice to pace the Devils while Jack Hughes added the other as the Islanders clearly had issues keeping up with the Devils’ speed.

“I don’t think we’ve played a team with that kind of speed yet,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “That’s a fast hockey club over there and they made a ton of plays… We were turning pucks over and feeding it. That was the main key tonight.”

Had it not been for goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who made 37 saves, the result would have been even more embarrassing on the scoreboard as the Islanders were outshot 41-17 on the night while generating little to no pressure on one of the worst goaltenders in the league in Mackenzie Blackwood. 

The Devils’ netminder allowed six goals across his first two starts of the season with an .864 save percentage entering Thursday night against the Islanders.

New Jersey commanded early proceedings thanks to an early Anders Lee tripping penalty that put the visitors on a man advantage just 2:15 into the game. 

Through the first 16:52 of the night, they had outshot the Islanders 13-0, but New York’s goaltender was sharp from the jump, making a handful of highlight-worthy saves — most notably a sprawling fight-off from a Jesper Bratt one-timer that looked destined to find twine as the Devils’ power play expired. 

“He was outstanding,” Barzal said. “Genuinely, like, amazing. Probably could have been 3-0 after the first. He made some spectacular saves. It could’ve gotten ugly pretty early and he was there for us.”

The Islanders finally recorded their first shot of the night with 3:07 to go in the first period when Noah Dobson’s attempt from the point slid its way to Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who padded it out of harm’s way. They would muster just two more before the end of the frame, heading to the dressing rooms with a 13-3 disparity in shots.

The Devils got their well-deserved lead 1:35 into the second period when Damon Severson’s home run pass found Hughes, who was easily able to get around falling Islanders defenseman Alex Romanov before sliding a backhanded attempt under Sorokin. 

New York’s deficit doubled when the lightning-quick top line of the Devils dissected the defense, leading to a Jesper Bratt pass off a turnover from behind Sorokin’s goal to a wide-open Palat in front. A one-timer in a blink left Sorokin no chance at the 8:09 mark. 

Unable to find a legitimate counter, the Islanders continue yielding waves of Devils pressure into the third period where they were outshot 18-5 — a testament to just how good Sorokin was against unrelenting attacks.

“He kept us in the game for a long period of time,” Lambert said of his goalie. “He was obviously our best player.”

But Palat found his second and put the bow on top of an impressive Devils showing when Palat nabbed his second at the 15:28 mark of the third period.

Lee spoiled Blackwood’s shutout with 3:16 to go when he stuffed home a rare Islanders surge that came with their net empty to give them an extra attacker with play at 4-on-4. It was canceled out by a Nico Hischier empty-netter with 34.6 seconds to go.

“We just couldn’t get our legs going enough,” Lee said. “Too much time in our end and they did a much better job than us with the quick up plays… They played a good game against what we wanted to do.”

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