ISLANDERS 3, DEVILS 1 — Isles Keep Pace, Have Won Four of Last Five

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Kevin Schultz

NEWARK, NJ — In the midst of the playoff chase, every point matters and tonight the Islanders got two important points in North Jersey against the Devils. With a 3-1 regulation win they crept to within two points of the seventh place Devils and kept pace with the eighth place Rangers, who beat Winnipeg at the Garden.

From the very start of the game the Islanders took advantage their opponents, who got off to an extremely slow start. Only 52 seconds in the Islanders scored when Frans Nielsen centered a pass to Josh Bailey on a 2-on-1. The pass gave Bailey a great look and he put it past Martin Brodeur, as the veteran had to dive laterally to try and stop the shot.

“It was something we talked about, really supporting the puck,” Bailey said after the game. “AMac threw it up, then Okie made a good chip, Fransie had great support, made a heck of a pass. I just ended up catching Brodeur sliding one way and was able to put it home on the opposite side.”

Six minutes later, Travis Hamonic broke through to open up a 2-0 lead on the road, one the Islanders wouldn’t relinquish. Nielsen fed Hamonic at the point, who let go a wrister that Broduer might like to have back. That goal prompted Devils coach Peter DeBoer to take a time out to try and wake up his team. Devils forward Tom Kostopoulos tried as well to inspire his teammates, engaging Matt Martin in a fight, but Martin took down Kostopoulos with a hard right. The Devils would eventually wake up from their first period funk, but not until after the intermission.

In the second frame, New Jersey stormed back and out shot the Islanders 12-5. After hitting a post early on, they would cash in to cut the Islanders lead in half as Alex Ponikarovsky scored.

The way the Devils pushed in the second, it was surprising that they weren’t able to tie the game, with the Islanders back on their heels for at least half the period. The Isles first line was probably the line penned into their own zone the most. For long stretches the first line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes looked out of sync. If it’s just a slump, it’s coming at the worst time for the Islanders but the team is still persevering through it, as they got two goals from the second line tonight.

Another key to the team’s success was a ridiculous 21 blocked shots, compared to only seven for the Devils. Defenders Lubomir Visnovsky and Travis Hamonic each racked up four blocks on the night, helping to limit the Devils to 25 shots on Nabokov. Much of the action towards the Islanders net came during the second period, where the Devils had 19 more shots directed towards the Islanders net than vis a vis.

In the third, the teams played fairly evenly and the Islanders made the most of their first powerplay of the game. Visnovsky fired a shot on Brodeur and the rebound found Tavares on the other side of the net, who coolly finished it for his 22nd of the season.

“We’re pretty happy with the way this week went,” Tavares said, referring to the team’s stretch of four wins in five games. “Now we have one game at home and it’s important that we bring the same mindset, work ethic, and attention to detail that’s needed for the stretch. We need as many points as we can get.”

The Islanders will have a golden opportunity to earn more points and move up in the standings Tuesday night at the Coliseum against the Winnipeg Jets. With the Rangers and Devils both idle on Tuesday, the Islanders could leapfrog New York and tie New Jersey for seventh with a win.

“This is why you play,” said Bailey, referencing the Islanders fight for a playoff spot. “We’re obviously pretty motivated and want to make a serious push here and make the playoffs.”