NEWARK — Thomas Greiss is the most likely of the three goalies currently on the Islanders’ NHL roster to be with the team next season.
So while the failures of this season have reduced the Islanders to the spoiler’s role, the last week before the offseason can be a productive one for Greiss.
Back in net for the first time in more than five weeks, Greiss made 31 saves, but the Islanders’ comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Devils on Saturday at Barclays Center.
“It’s always nice to come back and play a hockey game,” said Greiss, playing for the first time since Feb. 16, when he made 45 saves in a 3-0 win at Carolina for his first shutout of the season. He missed the next 17 games with an ankle injury before being activated off injured reserve to back up Christopher Gibson for Friday night’s 5-4 loss to the Maple Leafs at Barc lays Center.
“I was all right. It wasn’t bad,” Greiss added. “We couldn’t get the win at the end.”
The Islanders (32-37-10), who will miss the playoffs for the second straight season, pulled within 4-3 when Chris Wagner tipped in Johnny Boychuk’s slap shot at 16:21 of the third period. Still, they fell to 3-12-4 since Feb. 19.
“We only have three games, but I’d imagine Greiss is going to play,” coach Doug Weight said. “We’ll see how his ankle is. We’ll see if he’s sore tomorrow or not, but yeah, I’d like to see him.”
Greiss, 32, has two seasons remaining on a three-year, $10-million deal and fellow goalies Gibson and Jaroslav Halak are impending unrestricted free agents.
“I’d like to play some good games,” Greiss said when asked about the rest of the season. “Maybe play spoiler for a couple of teams.”
The Islanders couldn’t against the Devils (41-28-9), who got two goals from Taylor Hall and 27 saves from Farmingville’s Keith Kinkaid as they moved five points ahead of the Panthers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card.
“That’s a good team over there,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose one-timer with 13.2 seconds left and the Islanders skating six-on-five (with Greiss off for an extra skater) was gobbled up by Kinkaid. “They’re fighting for their lives. I thought we did a decent job battling but we just couldn’t get another one to tie it up.”
The Devils scored three goals in the second period to build just enough of a lead to hold off the Islanders’ rally.
Hall’s power-play goal off Adam Pelech’s skate made it 2-1 only 41 seconds in.
“You make your breaks, but that’s the fourth game we put the puck in our own net,” Weight said. “It doesn’t help. It was kind of a rewind play from last night.”
Hall then wristed a shot on the rush over Greiss’ glove to make it 3-1 at 9:08. After Anthony Beauvillier’s power-play goal at 13:19 brought the Islanders within 3-2, they allowed their 11th shorthanded goal as Blake Coleman made it 4-2 at 18:58.
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead at 1:15 of the first period as Tanner Fritz knocked in the rebound of Brandon Davidson’s shot. But Stefan Noesen tied the game at 7:54 of the first.
Cal Clutterbuck was hit with an elbow on Noesen’s goal and left for the dressing room. He returned in the second period but could not play in the third after requiring stitches.