Devils pick up their third straight win after two unanswered goals against the Islanders
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After scoring two unanswered goals against the Islanders, the Devils picked up their third straight win, and first of 2020. P.K. Subban had the first Devils goal of the new decade, while Nico Hischier's unassisted tally in the third period was the game winner.
Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine continues to be impressed by what Hischier brings night in and night out.
"Once again tonight, [he is] one of our leaders, best player, making a big play to get the go-ahead goal, all together on both sides of the puck," said Nasreddine. "If you look at his body of work in general, he's just as strong defensively."
New Jersey returns home on January 4th to face the Colorado Avalanche. The Devils are hosting their annual Pride Night and are holding a Pride pregame panel before the game. Click here for more information.
The team is energized by their recent efforts against the Bruins and Islanders.
"We've been playing well and giving ourselves all the time and chances to win a game," said Nico Hischier. "Guys care, guys dig in, it's fun to play right now."
"You can also see they're not scared to make plays, they bought in," said Mackenzie Blackwood. "They're blocking shots that are huge, committing in the D zone, it's a great all-around team game out there."
The second period continued to be a back and forth battle and equal intensity. Both teams had solid chances, and Mackenzie Blackwood continued to stop some strong, on-target shots by the Islanders.
With 12:40 on the clock Anthony Beauvillier and Sami Vatanen were both sent to the box for minors. Beauvillier was called for slashing and Vatanen for unsportsmanlike conduct. Thirteen seconds later, Brock Nelson got the Islanders on the board. Nelson won the faceoff, sped into the Islanders' offensive zone and fired a shot at the faceoff dot. The shot went between Andy Greene's legs and went past Blackwood.
Neither team scored in the first period, and were evenly matched. The Devils did kill off two penalties, but were unable to convert on their lone power play in the first frame.
It looked like the Islanders had opened the scoring in the first minute of the second period but it was called back for goaltender interference.
The Devils had some solid chances on net in the final five minutes of the period and PK Subban scored with 1:27 left in the period to tie it up at one. Travis Zajac won the faceoff, Nikita Gusev fed it to Subban who's one-timer fired past Varlamov.
Nico Hischier gave the Devils their first lead of the game less than two minutes into the third period. Nico won the faceoff, got the puck back, walked in on goal and snuck it past Varlamov to make it 2-1 New Jersey.
The Devils gained momentum following Hischier's tally and continued to have close opportunities and extended periods of offensive zone time. With just under 10 minutes left, the Devils, on the power play, were inches from their third goal.
New Jersey continued to attack but were unable to get a third goal on the night.
The Islanders pulled their goalie in the final two minutes of the game, but Mackenzie Blackwood and the defense came up big for the Devils. Blackwood finished the night with 29 saves on 30 shots.
"You learn how to be calm through it, play the same way, and keep sticking to the process," said Blackwood. "Tonight I thought we did a great job as a team, you know playing the right way, and that helped us get the win tonight."
"He made some huge saves, that's what we need from him," said Hischier. "He's been really good the last games he played, that's a big part for us to win some games."
A change Nasreddine has seen out of his team recently, is their ability to grow games. He believes this is due to a growing level of confidence.
"We've been able to close out games lately we've come back from behind in a few games so I think once you start doing that guys are more confident, we stick with the game plan," said Nasreddine. "Even in the third, this was a gritty game, not a whole lot of space out there. Guys know what they need to do. It's puck decision, decisions away from the puck, and we seem to be doing all the right decisions right now."
With the road win, the Devils are on a three game win streak and have gone 6-2-1 in their last nine. They return home Saturday to face the Colorado Avalanche.