The Devils lost for the second time this season, 3-2, to the New York Islanders at UBS Arena Thursday night.
The Islanders received goals from and Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech and Mat Barzal.
New Jersey goal scorers were Yegor Sharangovich and Nathan Bastian.
"For our team every single day feels different, every day we're coming to the rink to practice or play," Bastian said. "When we lose games not there aren't as many head-scratching plays or it doesn't feel like we have to go home and get back to the drawing board again. It feels like we're right there. We just need to bear down a little bit more."
The Devils will be back home to host the Arizona Coyotes next Wednesday. The game can be seen on MSG+ and heard on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 7:08 p.m. ET.
Who knew that the key to turning around the Devils' ailing power play was the addition of Bastian. Since the club has installed him as a net-front on the man-advantage unit, the Devils power play has come to life. His big body and screens have opened space and created opportunities, including for himself.
Bastian tipped a shot by Ty Smith into the net for his sixth goal of the season. The tally tied the game at 2-2 halfway through the third period.
"It's made a big difference," head coach Lindy Ruff said of Bastian on the power play. "Goaltenders are fighting to see pucks now. He's been able to tip a couple. His retrievals around the net have been good. He's made a difference."
Yegor Sharangovich returned to the lineup for the first time since missing three games due to contracting COVID-19. The timing was poor as Sharangovich had been riding a career-high four-game point streak with five points (3G-2A).
Sharangovich returned to the ice against the Islanders and didn't miss a beat. He scored the game's opening goal, recording a goal in four straight games played and registering points in five straight.
Sharangovich's goal was a testament to just putting the puck on the net. He carried the puck to the top circle and ripped it toward the goal. The puck seemed to catch goaltender Ilya Sorokin off guard and sneaked under his blocker and above his pad at the near post.
"We're counting on him," Ruff said of Sharangovich. "For a team that looks for scoring in different places we know what he brought up last year. He's starting to bring that same value. He's skating well. He's on the puck. He's winning battles. His all-around game has been solid. I think he's getting rewarded for playing well in every zone."
Goaltender Jon Gillies was thrust into the net with the COVID-19 diagnosis to Mackenzie Blackwood. He handled himself well overall. He made a couple nice glove saves, was strong with low shots using his butterfly and long leg span. Gillies stopped Mathew Barzal on a semi breakaway and denied a Cal Clutterbuck on a 2-on-1 early in the third period to keep it a one-goal game that allowed the Devils tie it. Gillies held his own.
"I thought Jon played really well for us," head coach Lindy Ruff said. "Gave us a real solid game."
New York's Oliver Wahlstrom levied a big hit on Jimmy Vesey, knocking his helmet off as he slammed into the glass in the process. Immediately, Bastian and Mike McLeod beelined for Wahlstrom in retaliation to stick up for their teammate. Both players read the situation and stepped up. You love to see it.
"I'd like to think we have the room in there where everyone would do that for each other," Bastian said. "Every time I go on the ice I feel like there are four other guys that have my back. Things got pretty chippy and it makes it fun for us."
The Devils got a little bit healthier in the lineup departments. Forwards Andreas Johnsson, Bastian, Sharangovich and Pavel Zach all returned from COVID-19 isolation and were back in action. Sharangovich and Bastian made immediate impacts by getting on the scoresheet for the Devils. They're important parts of the team, and were missed.
"I thought for the most part they all handled it pretty well. You don't know what you're going to get," Ruff said. "Some short shifts at times, but overall I thought they handled it well."
The Islanders have only won twice this season after surrendering the first goal. Both times have been to the Devils. New York is now 2-8-2.