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3 Takeaways: Kahkonen, Meier Lead Devils to 4-0 Shutout Over Islanders

Devils Kaapo Kahkonen records first shutout of the season, Timo Meier registers Gordie Howe Hat-Trick in 4-0 victory over the Islanders.

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New Jersey Devils
(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

ELMONT — Interim head coach Travis Green did not like the New Jersey Devils’ effort on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators at all.

The Devils flipped the script on Sunday afternoon on Long Island, however, dominating the New York Islanders at UBS Arena.

The Devils were minus Curtis Lazar and Kurtis MacDermid due to respective injuries suffered on Saturday night. As a result, Max Willman returned to the lineup and Santeri Hatakka joined the blue line. The Devils dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Let’s dive into the Devils’ 4-0 victory over the Islanders.

Devils Recap

The Devils and Islanders played a fast, yet scoreless first period. As a result of a handful of penalties in the opening frame, the Devils began the second period in a 5-on-3 situation. Timo Meier ended the scoreless tie, redirecting a Jack Hughes pass through the slot to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. Shortly later, an Islanders miscue wiped out three New York skaters. Jack transitioned the puck to the Islanders’ end of the ice and picked a corner over Ilya Sorokin’s shoulder for a 2-0 lead. Alexander Holtz capped off a dominant second period, sniping a Simon Nemec pass in a high-danger area.

In the third period, Patrick Roy pulled Ilya Sorokin early and Chris Tierney scored an empty-net goal to seal the Devils’ victory.

Kaapo Kahkonen stopped all 37 shots he saw, collecting his first shutout of the season and as a Devil.

Takeaways

Nemec-Holtz Connection

Simon Nemec has a bit of a mean streak in him.

The Devils’ 20-year-old defenseman is uber-competitive, and as a result, a feisty nature can certainly be seen on the ice.

Nemec’s nastiness made itself present toward the beginning of the second period when Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech was merely pressed up against him between whistles. Nemec promptly shoved Pelech off of him and into the boards with a decent amount of force.

Honestly, it was surprising to not see Nemec be whistled for a penalty.

Shortly after, Nemec made an excellent skill play deep in the Islanders’ zone, winning a puck battle along the boards, skating the puck to the slot, and feeding Alexander Holtz back door who didn’t miss.

In his 100th career NHL game, Holtz netted his 16th goal of the 2023-24 season.

Rebound Control

Kaapo Kahkonen turned in his best start as a member of the Devils in his short tenure.

Throughout the first two games in New Jersey, Kahkonen has been the unfortunate beneficiary of questionable defense by an immature Devils team.

As a result, the Finnish goaltender was 0-2-0 with a 3.81 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage.

However, the Sunday scaries were no bother to Kahkonen against the Islanders. It wasn’t a slow start for the Devils, but they were outshot by New York in the first period 13-6, all of which Kahkonen turned aside. The Devils controlled the pace of play the rest of the way, however, Kahkonen was still called upon to come up big in a few instances, most notably in the third period making a stretch save on the penalty kill against J.G. Pageau.

The 27-year-old goaltender showed poise and aggressiveness paired with excellent rebound control that resulted in a very strong effort from one-half of the Devils’ new goaltending duo. As a result, Kahkonen collected his first victory and shutout with the Devils, accruing a 3.54 GSAx, according to MoneyPuck.

“He was solid. He just looked focused, much like the rest of our team,” Green explained. “Obviously, we hadn’t had a shutout all year so that was nice to get one tonight. I’m happy for him, especially as an older guy, he played great against the (New York) Rangers, he came out of the game against [the Arizona Coyotes] and a lot of that was not necessarily his fault. That was more me making a change and he’s had to sit on that game for a little bit now. To see him get the shutout, it makes you feel good for him and obviously, it’s big for the team.”

Timo Meier’s Doing It All

Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils are getting the power forward they paid for.

Meier did it all against the Islanders on Sunday, helping lead his team to a dominant victory by filling the net, dishing an assist, and even completing the Gordie Howe Hat-Trick in defense of the Devils’ captain.

MUST WATCH: TIMO MEIER’S WIRES CROSS, COMPLETES GORDIE HOWE HAT-TRICK VS. ISLANDERS

Meier is certainly a rejuvenated player. Dealing with multiple injury stints throughout the 2023-24 season, he never quite fully recovered and it was having a negative effect on his play on the ice.

However, Meier has certainly proven he’s fully recovered and the results have followed. In 15 games leading up to Sunday, Meier scored 12 goals and 19 points. His 12 goals led the NHL in the last 30 days. And on Sunday, Meier added his 13th goal of the season, opening the scoring on the power play in typical Meier fashion, fighting for net-front presence and tipping home a Jack shot from the circle.

Meier helped the Devils keep their foot on the gas, dishing a primary assist to Jack Hughes just under two minutes later. He capped off his second period defending the Devils captain after a dirty hit by Anders Lee, completing the Gordie Howe Hat-Trick.

According to Natural Stat Trick, Meier was the Devils’ best forward among all who skated 10 minutes or more with a 68.57 CF%, 63.76 xGF%, and a positive 10-5 scoring chance differential.

“There’s been a lot of talk about him this season and obviously not having the start that he wanted,” Green started. “Now, all of a sudden he’s looking like the player that everyone envisioned. He’s a heavy body, he’s a power forward, and seeing him stick up for a teammate is great, but it’s not surprising to me. It’s great to see he had another good game.”

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