There's no doubt that the Islanders thought they got a raw deal on Brian Strait's charging call late in the third period of a scoreless game with the Devils on Sunday, a game that wasn't scoreless for long. Steve Bernier got a good bounce, right to his stick with Evgeni Nabokov out of position, and the Devils scored with 3:54 to play.
There's also no doubt that the Islanders placed the blame on themselves for the 3-0 loss at Nassau Coliseum. Their power play, which entered the game tops in the league and had converted six of its previous seven opportunities, failed on seven chances in the first two periods.
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That set up the frustrating finish. Bernier scored again 70 seconds later to seal the game for the Devils, who added an empty-net goal by David Clarkson with 22 seconds to play, got a solid start from Johan Hedberg (22 saves) and used their solid penalty kill to hound the Islanders into submission.
"I think it was us. We still had a lot of chances, plenty of good looks. That's on us," said Brad Boyes, who was part of a power-play effort that mustered only three shots through the first six advantages. "We should have scored four goals with the power play. We didn't, and then it bites us at the end."
Strait was whistled for charging with 5:43 to play even though he glided into a clean, hard hit on the Devils' Stephen Gionta. Strait even played the puck as Gionta was slow to get up; referee Mike Hasenfratz raised his arm after Strait sent the puck up the boards.
"It's a rim-around [play], and we just met at the puck," Strait said. "I don't agree with the call, but it's part of the game. Refs are going to make calls like that."
The Islanders still were reeling a bit when Ryan Carter passed to Bernier below the Isles' goal line. He banked a shot off Nabokov and in with 2:44 to go, and that was too much to overcome. The Isles had scored 26 goals in their previous six games, but they've now scored one total in two Coliseum games against the Devils.
After a night in Newark three days ago in which the Islanders' power play went 3-for-4, including the OT winner by Boyes, the Islanders could have seized control with their man-advantage chances early Sunday, including a four-minute power play when Dainius Zubrus clipped Travis Hamonic with a high stick just 5:55 in.
"They made some adjustments," Mark Streit said. "We still had some shots, and some pucks bounced away on us. We have to be better."
Said Jack Capuano, "We got in the zone the way we wanted but after that, we had no movement, no energy. We weren't winning puck battles. We just weren't functioning properly."
The Isles' best chance came shorthanded in the third when Michael Grabner picked off a pass for a breakaway. Hedberg got a pad on his stuff shot. Nabokov (24 saves) kept his team in it, making a spectacular stop on Gionta during an Islanders power play in the second.
"When you don't capitalize on your chances, it's hard to blame one call," Streit said. "We have to work harder and get the bounces to go our way."