|Islander scorer Jesse Joensuu is congratulated by Radek Martinek. His goal proved to be the difference in a 2-0 shutout of the Devils, helping the Islanders finally end their 14-game winless streak.|
Finally, the Islanders had something to be thankful for. On the day after Thanksgiving, they defeated the Devils 2-0 before 10,897 at Nassau Coliseum, mercifully ending their winless streak at 14 (1-11-3). Rick DiPietro stopped all 29 shots including 13 in the third period for the club's first win since Oct.21 at Tampa Bay. Making his third consecutive start, DP was strong facing a Devil onslaught in the final 20 to preserve an emotional victory for interim coach Jack Capuano, who finally won his first game in five tries (1-2-2).
The Islanders built a two-goal lead thanks to unlikely scorers Jesse Joensuu and Rob Schremp, who entered with a combined one goal. Joensuu finished off a nice passing play 92 seconds in with Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner assisting to give the Isles the lead. They outshot a flat Devil team 13-5. The Devil struggles continued. By the time Schremp buried a wrist shot past Johan Hedberg at 5:15 of the second, shots were 18-8 favoring the Long Island hosts. Blake Comeau and James Wisniewski notched helpers. Two players who've slumped during the franchise's second longest streak without a win. They avoided matching a 15-game winless streak (Nov.22-Dec.23, 1999).
New Jersey finally started to come on in the second half getting eight of the last nine shots in the second. However, they still trailed by a deuce headed to the third. John MacLean's team came out with more urgency in the final stanza, swarming the Islanders. They quickly peppered DiPietro with seven shots the first five minutes but couldn't solve the Islander franchise netminder, who was up to the task, sliding over to deny rookie Mattias Tedenby off a nice set up from Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias. He also thwarted Ilya Kovalchuk pointblank with the lost Devil $100 million man firing a rebound wide. Kovalchuk had a rough day taking a minor while having all four of his offerings shutdown by DiPietro. The 27 year-old Russian hasn't lit the lamp in six straight, registering only an assist with a minus-four rating. It's no secret that the Devs need better from their top sniper, who remains stuck on four goals. MacLean tried Adam Mair in place of rook Alexander Vasyunov on the right side. Mystifying.
In a period controlled by the Devils who had plenty of chances to get back in it including a botched five-on-three that probably left Hasan sick from the turkey and stuffing, they didn't come close. Despite a 13-1 SOG edge, it didn't matter. The Islanders did a good job sacrificing their bodies, blocking 27 shots including a half dozen apiece from stalwarts Mark Eaton and Radek Martinek. Sadly, the dozen they combined for were one better than the entire New Jersey roster. If you subtract Anton Volchenkov (3 blocks) and Patrik Elias (4), the rest of the 16 skaters had five, typifying what was missing from a team that came in on its first two-game win streak.
The Islanders were more desperate. Even in only taking two shots on Hedberg the last half of the contest, they won most of the battles. Under Capuano, they have been more competitive earning points against Atlanta and Columbus before finally breaking through to get the monkey off their backs. Maybe loaning Josh Bailey to Bridgeport after the third-year pivot went 13 straight without a point lit a fire to the rest of the club. They did the little things that win, playing more physical with 31 hits compared to the Devs' 14. Only one Islander didn't make the stat sheet. They needed to be on the Devils, especially when back-to-back penalties to Dylan Reese (interference) and Wisniewski (double-minor hi-sticking) gave their opponent a great chance to get back in it.
Instead, the Devils failed miserably, living up to their paltry road power play record of just one goal. Believe it or not, they rank pretty high at home. The five-on-three was discombobulated with the trigger man Jason Arnott instead of Kovalchuk. Twice, he missed wide with one even caroming out. Kovalchuk played the right side and was hardly a factor, getting one low one-timer through which DiPietro snuffed out. The Islander PK outworked the Devs, hustling to loose pucks and clearing them out when their foes didn't do it themselves with questionable decision making. Pumped up by their team's desperation, the crowd gave them a loud cheer when the second of Wisniewski's penalty was over.
It seemed to take the wind out of New Jersey's sails. They hardly tested DP the final six and a half, partially due to the Islanders' grit. As time wound down, it was finally over with an emotional DiPietro jumping up and down like a kid into the arms of happy teammate Zenon Konopka. He told Deb Kaufman how much the streak had weighed on them and pointedly thanked the fans twice for continuing to support them. A great day to be an Islander. Not so good if you were a Devil.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Rob Schremp, NYI (2nd goal of season, +1 in 20 shifts-13:57)
2nd Star-Mark Eaton/Radek Martinek, NYI (
1st Star-Rick DiPietro, NYI (29 saves incl. 13/13 in 3rd for 1st SHO of season-1st since Jan. also vs NJD)