Newark, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils defeated the New York Islanders 6-5 in preseason action on Monday.
The Devils started Monday night’s contest strong. New Jersey controlled the first three minutes of the game out-chancing the Islanders 3-0. However, Mathew Barzal capitalized on a turnover at the red line and scored to give the Islanders the early lead. Toward the middle of the first frame, Brock Nelson snuck behind the Devils’ defense and scored on an easy tap-in feed from Pierre Engvall. However, a point shot with eyes by John Marino found twine just two minutes later to bring the Devils back within one goal.
A jam-packed second period escalated this game on the score sheet. The Islanders took an early penalty to start the middle frame and New Jersey quickly went to the power play. The Devils took advantage, as Bratt scored on a one-time chance assisted by both Hughes brothers. Just over a minute later, Bratt scored again on a 2on1 rush, giving New Jersey their first lead of the game. However, the lead didn’t last long as Engvall pounced on a loose puck and beat Schmid five-hole on a breakaway. On the other end of the ice, Marino scored his second of the game to regain the Devils’ lead. About two minutes later, Jack Hughes cashed to pad New Jersey’s lead by two.
The third period picked up right where the second period left off. Barzal, 11 seconds into the final frame, scored his second goal of the game. However, Bratt scored again, a hat-trick goal, to give the Devils another two-goal lead. The Islanders pushed back late as Sebastian Aho brought the Islanders within one. But, the Devils and Schmid hung on for the 6-5 win. It wasn’t Schmid’s strongest night. The 23-year-old goaltender stopped 15 of 20 shots faced. Ilya Sorokin was pulled after 40 minutes, stopping just 13 of 18 pucks.
Rough Start for Luke Hughes and Colin Miller Pairing
The Devils’ early momentum was cut quickly in the first period after controlling the first few minutes of play. Handling the puck at the red line, Colin Miller turned the rubber over to the Islanders Barzal. Using his speed, Barzal took off for a breakaway and beat Schmid clean to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
The Islanders’ second goal came with Hughes and Miller on the ice again, just minutes later. Miller fighting for net front position with William Dufour took the Islander prospect out of position. However, Hughes got caught puck-watching and lost his man. As a result, Brock Nelson snuck behind Hughes and deposited an easy tap-in feed from Engvall.
“I thought it was a tough night for both players overall,” Lindy Ruff explained. “I think both guys need to be better.”
Earlier in the first period, the pairing lost a couple of puck battles. Of the most notable, Hughes was pushed off the puck by Dufour behind Schmid’s net to set up a scoring chance.
Hughes and Miller didn’t stick together for the entire 60 minutes. There’s still time for the duo to work out the kinks. However, if they don’t sooner than later, a more defensively responsible Marino might be a better fit next to Hughes.
Toffoli, Hughes, & Bratt are in Mid-Season Form
The line of Tyler Toffoli, Hughes, and Bratt continues to build what Jack calls “chem.” The trio combined for eight points during Monday night’s contest.
“It really looks like they’re just starting to develop some chemistry and find each other,” Ruff explained. “I thought that line made some really nice plays. They zipped (the puck) around. They had some really good possession. I think that takes time, but they’ve been together all camp. The fact that tonight, they were able to find each other the way they did, it’s a product of playing together.”
The “chem” is undeniable at this point. Bratt and Hughes had it to begin with playing together consistently for the last two seasons. Now, Toffoli steps onto the ice and seamlessly immerses himself into what’s becoming an offensive threat on a nightly basis.
The trio of forwards controlled play for the majority of their ice time. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Devils’ first line accrued a 61.11 CF%, 70.73 GF%, and 100.00 HDCF%. It’s safe to say these three will stay together.
John “Bobby Orr” Marino
It’s just preseason, relax!
But no, seriously, Marino had a really strong offensive game. He’s not going to light it up offensively the way he did against the Islanders every night. However, Marino is showing more confidence with his puck handling. Just when you thought General Manager Tom Fitzgerald robbed the Pittsburgh Penguins of Marino before, he’s proving he might even have another level.
His first goal of the game was just good instincts. Traffic built in front of the Islanders Sorokin and Marino simply threw a puck on the net that found twine.
It was Marino’s second goal that was more impressive, however. The 26-year-old defenseman handled the puck from the neutral zone, gained the offensive zone, put the puck between his legs to beat his defender, and his intended pass to the back door wound up in the back of the Islanders’ net. The goal might not have been intentional, but the intended scoring chance was.
Marino even set up Bratt’s hat-trick goal, collecting the primary assist and displaying comfort distributing the puck.
It was an impressive night for No.6.
“John had a good night,” said Ruff. “He had a couple of great opportunities and scored a heck of a goal. He’s been on some big goals you go back to the golden Ranger game, Game Seven, that was part of the way we want to play. We need our (defense) involved I thought our defense moved the puck well tonight.”
- Nathan Bastian looked strong in his first preseason game. He wasn’t afraid to throw the body and mix it up between whistles. His physical presence on Monday night was a great sign of progressing health.
- Ruff explained he thought it was another strong night for Tyce Thompson.
- “Tyce gave us another strong game,” said Ruff.
- The Devils are 5-0-0 in the preseason.