Islanders stay red-hot in win over Devils with fans back in Coliseum

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders
Mar 11, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders left wing Matt Martin (17) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Welcoming in 1,000 frontline healthcare workers as their first fans in-house since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Islanders extended their torrid streak with a comprehensive 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.

It was the Islanders’ seventh-consecutive win as they maintain their perch atop the Eastern Division. They also extended their home point streak dating back to last season to 15 games, tied for the fourth-longest streak in franchise history.

In total, 10-different Islanders recorded a point, including all six defensemen.

Matt Martin continued his run of uncharacteristic goal-scoring by getting the Islanders on the board 3:15 into the game as his wrist shot from the point got through traffic and through Blackwood for his fifth goal in his 27th game this season. He had five goals in 55 games all of last season.

Six minutes later, another shot from the point doubled the Islanders’ lead when Adam Pelech’s wrister got past Blackwood, who was stumbling after making contact with his own teammate in front.

The fast start was soured when captain and leading scorer, Anders Lee, suffered a lower-body injury after he awkwardly fell after a collision with Pavel Zacha and left the game with seven minutes left in the first.

While the likes of Anthony Beauvillier and Jean-Gabriel Pageau took Lee’s spot on the first line — and Martin getting reps in his place on the power play — the Islanders only extended their lead by putting up another two goals in the second period.

Oliver Wahlstrom, who continues to impress with his off-puck work, took a beating while trying to establish position in front of Blackwood and was ultimately bumped into the Devils’ netminder as Noah Dobson sent in a wrister from the point. As Blackwood fell, Devils defenseman Damon Severson deflected the puck into his own net — a whacky way for Dobson to get his third goal of the season.

While Wahlstrom didn’t get on the scoresheet, it was one of his most well-rounded games as a pro, further proving his commitment to the small details that head coach Barry Trotz has continuously preached in his system.

Severson’s nightmare period continued when he turned the puck over in his own zone off a relentless forecheck started by a big hit from Martin. Casey Cizikas took the loose puck on the left-wing and found a wide-open Josh Bailey, who tapped in one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score to make it 4-0 just 3:12 after Dobson’s tally.

The Devils responded with a quick two-goal punch early in the third period a consolation goal three-and-a-half minutes into the third period when Janne Kuokkanen was able to pop a rebound over Ilya Sorokin, who could not bat the floating puck behind him out of mid-air.

Just 40 seconds later, 4:03 into the period, Mikhail Maltsev snuck a softy past Sorokin’s glove to halve the Islanders’ lead.

After Trotz called a timeout to regain the Islanders’ composure, they got one right back when Brock Nelson from right in front of Blackwood poked home a Dobson pass from the left-wing 41 seconds after Maltsev’s goal.

Jack Hughes snuck a backhander past Sorokin to pull it back to a two-goal game with 4:08 to go, but that’s as close as the Devils would get — sabotaging their chances further when Kyle Palmieri took an interference penalty with 2:29 remaining.