NEWARK – The Islanders still have eight days before they open the new UBS Arena at Belmont. But Thursday night was the closest they’ve come to playing a home game, both geographically and with the crowd split roughly 50-50 in its loyalties.
But the rink or the fan support won’t help if the special teams’ edge is tilted dramatically the other direction.
The Islanders lost their second straight as they continued their season-opening, 13-game road trip with the Devils scoring both on the power play and shorthanded for a 4-0 win before 13,816 at Prudential Center.
"It was nice that our fans got a chance to come here," coach Barry Trotz said. "It’s disappointing for making the effort to come see the game, we didn’t get the result we wanted."
Ilya Sorokin, making his 10th start for the Islanders (5-4-2), stopped 34 shots as the Devils (7-3-2) crowded the crease. Mackenzie Blackwood made 42 saves for his first shutout this season as the Islanders were blanked for the first time.
"I thought their goaltender was first star, our goaltender was second star," Trotz said. "We gave up breakaways. Just some of our decisions. We didn’t have enough people on the rope today. We did enough to generate a goal or two. But we need more people pushing. We’re pretty dry in some areas. The workers are working but we need a little more production. And our power play, that’s a momentum killer."
"We need everyone going," captain Anders Lee said. "It was just a night where we weren’t clicking on all cylinders. When that happens and you don’t get a couple of breaks, you’re in a tough spot and you’re playing from behind. I don’t think tonight we had enough juice going to get it done and it was evident by the score."
The Devils have won three straight, including Tuesday’s impressive 7-3 victory over the Atlantic Division-leading Panthers while the Islanders dropped to last place in the Metropolitan Division after back-to-back trips to the NHL semifinals.
"We’re not sneaking up on teams," Trotz said. "The way the playoffs are set up, there’s going to be two or three really good teams that aren’t going to make it. I just don’t want to be one of them."
A better-functioning power-play would help. The Islanders went 0-for-3 with four shots against the Devils and are 4-for-28 this season as they continued to struggle with entries into the offensive zone and overall execution.
The Devils were 1-for-2 on the man advantage with five shots as defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s shot deflected off a leaping Tomas Tatar’s leg for a power-play goal to give the Devils a 2-0 lead at 19:10 of the second period.
"The power play, you’d like to contribute every night," Brock Nelson said. "Tonight clearly wasn’t a good night for us. Our unit had a tough couple of power plays, turnovers on the entries and an unfortunate penalty."
Oliver Wahlstrom’s tripping penalty against energetic rookie Dawson Mercer at 18:38 led to Tatar’s goal.
"The second goal unnerved us just a little bit," Trotz said.
Mercer then made it 3-0 at 5:46 of the third period, converting a turnover into a breakaway and slipping the puck through Sorokin’s pads. Hamilton completed the scoring at 16:33.
The Devils had taken a 1-0 lead on Janne Kuokkanen’s shorthanded goal at 12:12 of the first period, after the Islanders turned the puck over, leading to initial shots from defenseman P.K. Subban and Nico Hischier.
It marked the first time in nine games the Islanders hadn’t scored the first goal and had allowed a first-period goal.