NEWARK – It was apparent early on that the first team to make a mistake would pay dearly for it.
The Devils and the Islanders played 20 minutes of scoreless hockey to open up Tuesday’s game, and the Islanders killed off the one power-play opportunity afforded to the Devils.
“Two good shifts, two bad shifts. One good shift, one bad shift,” New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire said. “The thing that is happening is that we don’t have five guys working together.”
A pre-season mistake of too-many-men put the Devils down a man 41 seconds into the second period, and the Isles took advantage.
New York scored 1:12 into the second on a shot by Jack Hillen that careened behind Martin Brodeur into the far corner of the net.
But the Devils were not defeated, as the goal seemed to open up the game.
With a little more than five minutes past in the second, Zach Parise forced a turnover in the Devils offensive zone. He dug the puck out from the left boards and found Travis Zajac left of Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson, and Zajac passed to Jamie Langenbrunner on the right corner of the crease.
Langenbrunner fired, and Parise met the rebound and poked it past Roloson to tie the game at one.
“Most importantly for our line is getting the chemistry back,” Parise said. “Tonight we were a lot sharper, we were making smart plays, and it showed for us on the scoresheet.”
Poor decisions put the Devils down two men half-way into the second period.
On a 5-on-3 opportunity, Mark Streit fired from the right circle and the puck went over Brodeur, off the crossbar and into the net to reinstate the New York lead. First-overall draft pick John Tavares added an assist on the goal.
The power play remained key for both teams, as Brian Rolston evened the game at 14:21 in the second, driving up the left side of the ice, passing to himself between Radek Martinek’s legs and firing his signature shot past Roloson. Rookie Cory Murphy assisted on the play.
The “ZZ Pop” line continued to regain their regular season playing level when Zajac forced a turnover at the blue line. He sent the puck in deep behind the Islander net, and Parise sent it back to Zajac for the perfect give-and-go combination.
Another well-executed pass between Brendan Shanahan and Nicklas Bergfors resulted in a 4-2 lead in the third period.
Bergfors sent a pass up ice to Shanahan in the left faceoff circle, and Shanahan one-timed the puck past Roloson. Dainius Zubrus, who switched centering lines with new-acquisition Rob Niedermeyer earlier in the game, was credited with the secondary assist.
The Devils played a conservative third period to ensure that they took a win and a healthy roster into the regular season.
New Jersey opens the regular season at home on Saturday, Oct. 3, against the Flyers at 7 p.m. Lemaire said after the game that Saturday’s line-up would be very similar to Tuesdays, with, “maybe one or two guys are changed.”
NOTES: Matt Halischuck switched from #63 to #16, Joel Rechlicz was sent to the showers early for 3 fights in one game and for blindsiding Colin White after the play… The two teams racked up a total of 88 penalty minutes including two game misconducts and 10 five-minute fighting penalties… David Clarkson fought Brendan Witt because he respects Witt and wanted to get a fight in before the regular season… Mike Mottau was an unexpected member of the lineup. He was originally considered out from the upper body injury he got Thursday in Philadelphia, but Mottau said that he was strong enough to play, and that the injury was just sore after the game… Jay Pandolfo was scratched with a groin injury.