Islanders hold off late Devils push in 6-4 win

New York Islanders center Brock Nelson, center, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, in Newark, N.J.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

NEWARK — The Islanders erased a 1-0 deficit in the first period with four straight goals between the 15:37 mark of the first period to the 4:05 mark of the second period in a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils. 

It was a massive win for the Islanders, who became just the sixth team this season to defeat the Devils. They join the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators. 

“It’s a big win,” Brock Nelson said. “We felt like we wanted to come out and play a strong game and kind of get some back and take two points. I thought we did a good job doing that. Played a pretty solid game.” 

While New Jersey started off the game, the Islanders played as good as they have all season against the best team in the NHL, who embarrassed them earlier this season in a 4-1 win over New York at UBS Arena in October. The Isles’ win also erased the foul taste they had from an ugly loss to St. Louis on Tuesday. 

Nelson scored twice to extend his point streak to seven games and tie the Isles’ longest streak which was set by Mathew Barzal. It also matched his season-high from last year. 

“I’m feeling good. Just trying to get out there impact both sides and offensively for sure,” Nelson said about his play. “On power play trying to take advantage of some more shots, some more opportunities, and then five on five and trying to generate as a line. I thought we did a pretty good job of that. Had some good looks.”

Anders Lee, Casey Cizikas, Oliver Wahlstrom and Cal Clutterbuck also scored in the Islanders’ win. Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer, Tomas Tatar and Jack Hughes found the back of the net for the Devils. 

“I liked the way we played for the most part,” Isles coach Lane Lambert said of the effort. “Staying above them, not giving them as many shots as maybe they were accustomed to. And when you play eight minutes five on six, they’re gonna get some opportunities and some chances. We just didn’t find a way to sort of put it in the empty net or finish the game off, but other than that, I thought we did a lot of really good things tonight.”

New Jersey didn’t go down without a fight, scoring two goals in the third period to pull within two and hit the post and crossbar in the final two and a half minutes of the game. The Devils have made it a habit of not going down without a fight this season, but the Islanders managed to hold off the Devils who played the final 7:36 of the game without a goaltender in the net. 

The Devils’ loss snapped a six-game point streak and New Jersey had been 14-3-0 when scoring first entering Friday’s game. They also owned an 11-4-0 record against the East and a 5-2-0 record against the Metro coming into their second meeting with the Islanders.

Tempers flared in the second when Alexander Romanov laid a heavy hit on Miles Wood that sent the Devils’ forward off the ice. A melee ensued in the corner. 

Devil head coach Lindy Ruff said that Wood was “OK” after the game and that they’ll see how he’s doing on Saturday. 

“You don’t forget that kind of stuff. I mean, it’s a hard hit,” Devils defenseman Ryan Graves said. “He’s a good player for us. So you eat it. Never want to see that happen.”

Brock Nelson made the Devils’ early 1-0 lead disappear at 15:37 of the first period when he buried a wraparound goal. Anders Lee gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead with nine seconds left in the opening period when he fired a shot from the point that found its way past Devils’ starter Vitek Vanecek. 

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Casey Cizikas buried a one-timer from Matt Martin off the rush at 3:31 of the second to extend the Isles’ lead to two and less than a minute later Oliver Wahlstrom scored off a rebound to make it a 4-1 game. Mercer scored on a 2-on-1 rush to cut the Islanders’ lead to two, but Nelson scored on the power play at 16:47 to make it a 5-2 game. 

Clutterbuck scored New York’s sixth goal of the game a minute into the third, but Tartar answered 1:30 later when he slid one through the legs of Semyon Varlamov. After New Jersey pulled its netminder, they scored one final goal, but the Islanders managed to hold off the Devils’ surge in the end. 

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