NEWARK — This time Ilya Sorokin knew he would be the Islanders’ starting goalie a day in advance, unlike his NHL debut, when he was a last-minute injury replacement for Semyon Varlamov.
Accordingly, the highly touted Russian rookie looked much more comfortable, aside from a rough two minutes in the first period. Still, the Islanders opened a season-high five-game road trip with a 2-0 loss to the Devils on Sunday night at Prudential Center.
"I feel good today, better than the first game," said Sorokin, who made 22 saves. "It’s very disappointing, second game, second loss. But my teammates helped me."
They may have supported him defensively, but his new teammates have yet to score a goal for him, and coach Barry Trotz lamented that it took his team until the third period to start skating consistently toward the net.
The Devils’ Scott Wedgewood stopped 28 shots for his third career shutout. He made his second straight start with No. 1 goalie Mackenzie Blackwood still on the NHL’s COVID-19-protocol list.
"We weren’t willing to get greasy enough to get one," Trotz said. "l give some credit to the goaltender, he played well. We made it a little too easy on him. We were on the perimeter."
Sorokin’s first NHL start was a 5-0 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 16. He made 27 saves while subbing for Varlamov, who was struck under the mask by teammate Cal Clutterbuck’s shot in warm-ups.
Varlamov is 3-0-0 with two shutouts, a 0.33 goals-against average and a .988 save percentage after Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Devils at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders have scored nine goals in his starts.
"Not the way we’d like to welcome him in," Anders Lee said of Sorokin, selected in the third round in 2014 and a five-time KHL All-Star for CSKA Moscow. "We owe him quite a bit and we’ll make sure to get him back. I know he’s going to stand tall for us. Just a couple of things that aren’t on him. They’re on us as a team and we’ll bounce back together."
"We had targeted this game," Trotz said of giving Sorokin his second start. "We have five games this week, so I knew I have to get him in. At the same time, Varly’s been going pretty good.
"You have to understand this is going to be a marathon. You can ride the pony out quickly and you know that they get going, but at some point, they can break down."
Sorokin gloved Miles Wood’s left-circle shot at 1:03, the first shot of the game. He then stuffed Travis Zajac at the left post at 4:50 as the fast-skating Devils caught the Islanders in transition with an odd-man rush. Sorokin also stretched out to his right to stone Wood at the post at 13:33.
But Jack Hughes’ power-play goal at 17:00 made it 1-0. He skated in and snapped a shot over Sorokin’s shoulder from the left circle after defenseman Adam Pelech’s stick broke.
Containing Hughes was one of the things the Islanders did particularly well Thursday, as he was held without a shot. Hughes, the first overall pick in 2019, had scored two goals with an assist in his previous game, a 4-3 win over the Rangers.
The Devils made it 2-0 at 19:00. Sorokin could not control a wrist shot by Nikita Gusev that he should have been able to smother and Pavel Zacha knocked in the rebound at the left post.
The Islanders were down to 11 forwards after Anthony Beauvillier exited at 6:30 of the second period. Trotz did not have an update after the game.