By Dave Turner & Jeff O’Connor
What happened: The New Jersey Devils got three goals in the final 3:44 of play as they shut out the New York Islanders 3-0 on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
Star of the game: Easily Johan Hedberg. The Devils goaltender was brilliant, stopping every prime scoring chance and posting 22 stops for the game.
Goat of the game: Islanders Defenseman Brian Strait. He took a few extra strides and took a charging penalty for steamrolling Stephen Gionta. That led to the Steve Bernier power play goal.
Turning point: Hedberg’s stop on Michael Grabner’s shorthanded breakaway midway through the third period. After that, the Devils woke up and created more consistent chances and pumped in the goals they needed.
Offense: C+ – There were maybe two or three prime scoring chances. Where has Ilya Kovalchuk been? I get he’s not going to score every game, but he at least has to make SOME type of impact. That said, they get a pair of HUGE goals when they needed them.
Defense: B+ - Devils weren’t as out of position as they have been to start the season but there were still a lot of strong Islander opportunities. A step in the right direction, though.
Goaltending: A - Hedberg was just as brilliant as he was in Boston. In the third period, he denied John Tavares in the slot and Michael Grabner on a shorthanded breakaway.
Special teams: A – While they took some bad penalties, they also deserved a couple of them. Either way, they killed off seven of them.
This was a MUCH needed win for the Devils. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, a 3-0 victory is exactly what they needed.
Hedberg was sensational, yet again. He stymied the high-powered Islanders offense and made one of the biggest plays of the season so far when he stopped Grabner on the breakaway attempt.
The amount of penalties the Devils continue to take is alarming. Not only will they be burned from time to time when they’re a man down, but for a Devils team that is struggling to score, playing double-digit minutes with a man down is further hurting their chances of scoring.
With that being said, the penalty kill and the defense as a whole was definitely good enough to help the team win. Were they great? No, but it is a promising turnaround.
Bernier had one of his best performances as a Devil, with his two third-period goals. The jam in on the second goal was a heads up play that negated any chance of the Islanders finding a late goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Moving forward, this is a game that they must learn from. New Jersey should be happy with a hard fought divisional win, but there is still a lot of room for improvement in both ends of the ice.
They get a major test on Tuesday when they host the New York Rangers in what becomes a pivotal game for two teams that have struggled to really get going.
Two hard earned points.
A Weekend at Bernier’s and a good close to a tough week.
Enjoy the Super Bowl!