The Islanders have seen the Devils pull their clampdown routine at the Coliseum all too often in recent seasons. The defensively structured team from New Jersey gets up by a goal and clogs up every available skating and shooting lane.
The visitors went ahead by two goals after a period Monday night against the fairly dead-legged Islanders. But the only things that looked familiar about this Devils-Isles game at the Coliseum were the names on the scoresheet for New Jersey -- Jaromir Jagr, 42, produced two assists and 34-year-old Scott Gomez had a goal and an assist.
With John Tavares frustrated to the point of distraction, the rest of the Islanders slowly but surely forced the play back in their direction. Matt Martin's goal off a rush tied it with 9:45 left in the third period and Josh Bailey, who scored in the second period, provided the shootout clincher in the fifth round for a 3-2 Islanders win, their second straight after three consecutive losses. It made the Islanders 6-for-6 in shootouts this season.
"We just kept coming at them and tried to grind them down and we got back in it," said Tavares, whose retaliatory jab on Marek Zidlicky with 1:49 left in regulation nearly undid all the hard work. "Certainly some guys did some good things tonight -- not really me or my line."
For the Islanders to impose their will as they've done during this 21-10-0 start, it hasn't been all Tavares. And of late, the fourth-liners -- Monday night that was Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck -- have been making a huge difference.
Cizikas, back after a three-game absence because of injury, nearly converted a couple of tries off the rush on Farmingville product Keith Kinkaid, but his backhand flick that hit Martin in stride midway through the third was his biggest play.
And then there was Martin's shot, a beauty of a wrister up the off-wing that rattled around the goal and sent the Coliseum crowd into a frenzy.
"Guys like us, we have a certain job to do," Clutterbuck said. "Good teams obviously have top-end skill guys and sometimes teams lose games because those guys get shut out. We've contributed a few goals and it's led to a couple wins."
The league's worst penalty kill got a little worse when Zidlicky blasted a one-timer past Jaroslav Halak to open the scoring in the first, so there was plenty of trepidation when Tavares was sent off for slashing inside of two minutes to play. But the Devils didn't get a shot, thanks to a much more aggressive kill.
"We talked and we knew if they got another chance, we were going to pressure up the ice and be more aggressive in our end," Jack Capuano said. "We didn't just stand around."
Kyle Okposo and Gomez traded shootout goals. Bailey, rarely used in the shootout (5-for-12 lifetime), made a slick move to his left and slid the puck between Kinkaid's pads.
Halak stopped Jacob Josefson and the Isles went to 9-0 in games beyond regulation, one of the many changes in this team and in the balance of power between the semi-local rivals.
The Devils had won eight of 12 games at the Coliseum the previous four seasons, but the Isles sent them back to Jersey with only one point in two games here this season. Jagr's two assists gave him 77 career points in 53 games at the Coliseum, far and away the most for any visiting player, but it didn't amount to damage in the standings.
"We're that stingy team now," Capuano said. "We didn't give them much."