Officially ousted from the playoffs Saturday, the Islanders squandered their first opportunity to play spoilers last night, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Devils at the Prudential Center.
Frans Nielsen tallied twice to erase a two-goal deficit in the third but Andy Greene’s clincher allowed the Devils’ second-half Cinderella story to live another day.
Facing potential elimination, the Devils nabbed two points to keep them mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference standings.
With the game tied at 2, Greene ripped a wrist shot past goaltender Rick DiPietro for the go-ahead goal at 15:04.
“That first goal shook them a little bit. They started to make some mistakes, they started to be anxious with their decisions,” Nielsen said. “We just can’t let up that goal when we just tied it up.”
With the Islanders trailing 2-0 in the third-period, Frans Nielsen scored his league-leading seventh shorthanded goal to cut the Devils lead in half.
The Devils were awarded a four-minute power play on a phantom high-sticking call against call-up defenseman Mark Katic, but Nielsen beat Martin Brodeur with his effortless backhander at 9:28.
With his third-period marker, Nielsen tied a franchise record for most shorthanded goals in a season, set by Bob Bourne 30 years ago.
Later in the third, Nielsen was awarded his second goal of the game after a sputtering puck glanced across the goal line for the equalizer at 13:44.
The goal was reviewed to see if Nielsen made a kicking motion, but ultimately upheld.
“I tried to kick it first, but I missed it,” Nielsen admitted.
Ilya Kovalchuk finished with a goal and an assist, chipping in on the first two Devils goals.
After stopping him on a breakaway early in the first, DiPietro was beat by the Russian sniper later that shift for a 1-0 Devils lead at 4:17. Kovalchuk picked up a secondary assist on the Devils’ second goal, scored by Swedish rookie Jacob Josefson at 3:23 in the second period.
“Tonight we battled,” coach Jack Capuano said. “I liked our effort tonight”