NEWARK, N.J. – Chris Lee scored 2:28 into overtime on his 28th birthday Friday night, lifting the New York Islanders to a 3-2 pre-season victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Lee snapped a drive that beat backup goalie Kevin Weekes on New York’s 20th shot. Fellow defenceman Bruno Gervais, who turned 24 Friday, earned an assist. The Islanders got the win after losing a 2-1 lead late in the second period.
“I don’t think the goalie saw it, and to be honest I didn’t see it go in, either,” Lee said. “It was a delayed celebration, but it was a great feeling. This is definitely the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.”
After recording only five shots in the first period against Islanders third-string goalie Yann Danis, the Devils got even on Zach Parise’s power-play goal with 26.4 seconds left in the middle period.
New York couldn’t get the puck out of its zone during New Jersey’s third power play of the period – a high-sticking double-minor against Jeremy Colliton.
Devils defenceman Anssi Salmela slid a diagonal pass from the left point to Parise in the low right circle. Parise snapped a shot that beat Danis for his fifth goal of the pre-season.
The Devils went on a 5-on-3 power play 13 seconds later when Lee was sent off for hooking. New Jersey enjoyed that manpower edge for well over a minute into the third period, but couldn’t take the lead.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. The Islanders killed off the penalties only to go short-handed again at 2:04. The Devils pumped in five shots and hit the post with two other attempts. Patrik Elias slid the puck through the crease, but it caught the right post.
“At 5-on-5, I thought our guys did a tremendous job,” first-year Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “I’d be surprised if they had more than 15 shots 5-on-5. The majority of their shots came on the power play, particularly the 5-on-3.
“When you’re short-handed for pretty much six consecutive minutes and close to eight, you’re going to lose momentum.”
New Jersey took a 1-0 lead 3:32 in on its first shot. Johnny Oduya let go a drive from above the left circle that hit the right post and caromed in.
The Islanders tied it on Andy Hilbert’s stuff shot near the right post with 4:29 left in the first period, and Kurtis McLean made it 2-1 for New York 2:55 later when his drive from the left point seemed to hit Salmela in flight and take a dip past Weekes.
That was quite a change from Wednesday on Long Island when the Devils defeated the Islanders 3-0 behind a 17-save effort by No. 1 goalie Martin Brodeur.
“Every game you play you want to win,” said Mike Comrie, one of the few Islanders veterans in the lineup. “When you’re playing a division rival, you just expect a lot out of everybody. It’s nice to get a win but we know we have a long road ahead of us.”
The Devils outshot New York 12-0 in the third on Friday before the Islanders recorded their first shot of the period shortly after the 13-minute mark. Until then, New Jersey had showed mostly lacklustre play.
“For the first half of the game, that’s exactly what we were,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “We did a much better job in the second half of having some assertiveness and puck pursuit. Our forecheck was a lot better, there wasn’t as many gaps. The shots on goal showed that.”
Danis finished with 28 saves. Regular backup Joey MacDonald also dressed, but New York’s No. 1 netminder Rick DiPietro is close to returning. He skated with teammates Friday morning and is expected to get the start Monday when the Islanders finish their pre-season schedule at Florida.
The Islanders and Devils will open the regular season against each other next Friday in New Jersey.
Notes: The Islanders are expected to be without defencemen Andy Sutton and Chris Campoli for several weeks. Sutton is out because of hand surgery. Campoli is sidelined by an injured shoulder, not the one he dislocated last season that knocked him out for the season in January. … Veteran forwards Bill Guerin and Doug Weight sat out for the Islanders. They are expected to play the final two pre-season games.