Game 15: Tavares Powers Islanders Past Devilsgame recaps February 17, 2013
The Devils will be happy when they no longer have to play the Islanders and John Tavares this season. 2009′s first overall draft pick carried the Islanders to a convincing 5-1 victory Saturday, notching a hat trick and assisting on another goal for the upstart Isles. The Islanders were good when they had to be: on the power play where they converted three of their five opportunities. Not to be outdone, Tavares’s linemate Matt Moulson also shared in the team’s success, registering a goal and three assist of his own.
The first 35 minutes of Saturday’s contest in Long Island had all the makings of a classic Islanders-Devils tilt: Little room to maneuver, several near misses on offense and great goaltending from Evegeni Nabokov and Johan Hedberg, who received the start on the back end of New Jersey’s back-to-back contests.
With 3:14 remaining in the second period, the Islanders changed the tide of the game for good, as Tavares slammed home a weak-side rebound off a Brad Boyes wrist shot. The goal put the Devils back on their heels as they made an even bigger hole for themselves in the moments immediately following Tavares’s opener.
Bryce Salvador took a penalty shortly after the first goal, challenging Isles’ bruiser Matt Martin to a duel following a questionable hit behind the Devils’ goal, only to be penalized himself. The Islanders converted the power play quickly, with Tavares finishing off a puck bouncing in front of Hedberg. 57 seconds later, Tavares and Boyes played the role of provider, finding Moulson in front of goal for an easy finish following a poor penalty taken by Henrik Tallinder. (Odds are Tallinder will be back to being a healthy scratch following this game.)
Within a span of 2:20, the Islanders had taken complete control of the game and seemingly killed whatever energy the Devils had mustered in the first two periods.
New Jersey pulled a goal back with 11:13 remaining in the third period, getting a power-play marker from Marek Zidlicky, his first tally of the season. The Devils had several decent scoring chances after getting on the board, but Nabokov and the Isles shut them down. Tavares iced the victory with a laser of a wrist shot from the right circle over the short-side shoulder of of Hedberg to complete the hat trick with 5:15 remaining.
Hedberg turned in another strong effort save for allowing three power play goals and made several outstanding saves on the evening, including getting just a piece of David Ullstrom’s penalty shot in the first period to deflect it off the post. Hedberg denied both Boyes and Michael Grabner on close range saves that showed tremendous flexibility and reactions at two separate junctures in the game.
The Devils had their chances to get on the board early in the game, with Travis Zajac missing a few glorious chances while Bobby Butler rang a shot off the post in the third period. Some games, Nabokov seems to have the Devils well under control.
-Ilya Kovalchuk’s assist on Zidlicky’s goal was the 800th point of his career.
-Patrik Elias posted his 15th assist of the season, good enough for third in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh.
-David Clarkson failed to register a point on the evening, but he did get several minutes of airtime on CBC’s Coach’s Corner segment with Canadian icon Don Cherry. Cherry championed Clarkson’s play this season, giving his endorsement for Clarkson’s place on Team Canada for next winter’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Cherry loves stories about undrafted grinders from the Toronto area and Clarkson’s play has earned him quite a bit of praise this season from multiple media outlets.
-Stefan Matteau was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
-Zidlicky lead the Devils in shots, putting six pucks on Nabokov, who turned away 30 of 31 shots.
-Adam Henrique has no points in the last three games and no goals in the last four contests.
-Tavares has five goals and two assists in four games against the Devils this season, but all those points have come in two contests.
-The Devils host Ottawa on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. for a President’s Day matinee. Look for Martin Brodeur to be back in goal.
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Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter @dpennucciTags: adam henrique, Johan Hedberg, Marek Zidlicky