NEWARK, NJ- The next two important dates for the Islanders franchise will be the March 4
trade deadline and the draft lottery. But coach Scott Gordon has been able to get his team to compete despite its last-place status, even if they consistently play just well enough to lose.
With no go-to scorer, the Islanders once again couldn’t capitalize on quality goaltending, losing its fourth straight game after Zach Parise scored the second of his two goals in a four-point night to help the Devils post a 4-2 win Wednesday at Prudential Center.
Joey MacDonald made 46 saves, including a highlight-reel worthy stop that prevented Parise from netting the hat trick., though it wasn’t enough to stop the skid. The Islanders lost the last four games by just five goals
“They threw a lot of puck on net and that’s Devil hockey,” said MacDonald, who missed nearly a month with a groin injury. “They have some quality defenseman out there who throws pucks through and guys just bang away at rebounds.”
Only Jamie Langenbrunner’s empty net goal prevented the Islanders from losing its staggering 21st one-goal game of the season. Gordon saw his team fall to 16-32-6 for a league-low 38 points. To put the team’s offensive ineptitude in context, consider Parise might score 40 goals before the Islanders have any player to crack the 20-goal mark.
Coming off a shootout loss to the Kings at Nassau Coliseum the night before, not even the short trip across the Hudson River could prevent the Isles from looking fatigued.
“It looked like we played last night,” Gordon said. “We weren’t very sharp in all areas.”
Parise, the Devils Hart Trophy candidate, hand a hand in all of New Jersey’s goals. The MVP candidate scored off a rebound attempt with 1:21 left in the opening period, assisted on Langenbrunner’s power play goal in the second and broke a 2-all deadlock with his game-winning power play tally 12:35 into the final period.
For good measure, Parise also assisted on the empty-netter. The left-winger’s 34 goals moved him into a
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with Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter for second place atop the NHL’s leaderboard. As another painful memory for a beleaguered
fan base, the Islanders drafted Robert Nilsson with the 15th pick in the 2003 draft. Parise went to the Devils at 17.
“He’s one of those guys where he’s there and then he’s not there,” MacDonald said about Parise’s elusiveness. “He finds the soft spots and the puck seems to come right to him. That’s why he has 34 goals this year.”
But in a dismal season that has featured speculation over the franchise’s potential relocation, the Islanders are trying to salvage some positives with the maturation of its few promising young
Kyle Okposo registered his first NHL goal at the arena known as the Rock last season and again found a comfort level at Newark’s state-of-the-art facility Wednesday night. Okposo’s nifty double-move off a power-play marked his 11th goal and gave the Isles a brief 2-1 edge.
Blake Comeau and 2008 first-round pick Josh Bailey join Okposo as the closest the organization has to a set core of prospects. Last season, Okposo was a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. Now, the 20-year-old is playing the most consistent hockey of his brief NHL career, scoring six goals in his past nine games.
“They out-shot us by two-to-one [50-25], but we had our chances to score too and we didn’t capitalize,” Okposo said.
Okposo’s goal was off a skill move. After moving around defenseman Bryce Salvador, Okposo failed on his first chance to hit the puck but quickly buried his second attempt with a hard shot that whizzed by Kevin Weekes (23 saves).
“I was fortunate that a couple of their players over-skated and I saw the defenseman was leaning,” Okposo said. “I just made a move around him and got the rebound.”
Comeau notched his sixth assist
of the season, setting up Radek Martinek’s goal just 2:32 into the game. It was Comeau’s 10th point of the season and eighth since Dec. 26, marking an increase in productivity since his slow start.
Martinek caught the Devils off guard by moving in from the point into the low right circle. Comeau scrapped the puck out of
the corner and skated towards the net before sending a crisp pass right on the defenseman’s stick blade.
Martinek fired a hard wrist shot into the open net before Weekes could slide over for an early lead.
The Isles killed off 1:39 of five-on-three time before Parise scored off a rebound after MacDonald stopped Paul Martin’s initial shot. Parise has 13 goals and 12 assists in 28 career games against the Islanders.
“I think he’s a guy that all of our players should watch, his tenaciousness that he plays with,” Gordon said.[audio: https://www.nysportsday.com/wp-content/uploads/islanders-vs-devils.mp3]