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Devils win first of home-and-home series vs Islanders

Strong start, special teams, and goaltending contribute to Saturday's victory

by Michelle Gingras /

The Devils took the first half of a two-game home-and-home series in their 3-1 victory against the New York Islanders at Prudential Center on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd. The Devils played one of their more complete games of the season in what they described as a "playoff-like" atmosphere at the Rock. Here are three keys that helped contribute to tonight's victory.

New Jersey stressed the importance of a strong start to set the tone in this two-game home-and-home series and they did just that, controlling the puck and the tempo especially in the first ten minutes of the game. Devante Smith-Pelly scored a big goal in the first period in his first game back since missing the past six as a healthy scratch.

The Devils did a good job overall of weathering a chippy game thanks to strong special teams play. The penalty kill stopped all three Islanders power play attempts with Travis Zajac netting a pivotal short-handed goal to give the Devils a 2-0 lead in the second period. Pavel Zacha also buried his fifth power play goal of the season in the third period. 

And lastly, despite a late surge by the Islanders, goaltender Cory Schneider was dominant throughout the game tonight stopping 40 of the 42 shots he faced including a penalty shot by John Tavaras in the first period to keep the momentum in the Devils favor.

Tonight's win puts the Devils just two points behind the Islanders in the standings. They'll look to capitalize on what they did well tonight as they head to Brooklyn tomorrow in search of two more points against the Islanders.

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