Everything is falling into place for the New Jersey Devils.
The team is winning despite injuries, the power play is warming up, Patrik Elias is back in the lineup and backup goalie Yann Danis is showing he can give Martin Brodeur a day off without causing problems. Danis made 23 saves and stopped four in-close attempts in the third period against his former Islanders teammates, helping the Devils post their fourth straight win, a 2-1 decision over New York on Friday night.
“Everytime I get to play I want to get the win, but to win against those guys makes it a little more special,” said Danis, who signed as a free agent after spending last season with the Islanders. “You always want to play well against your former team.”
Brian Rolston scored the winner on a power play and defenceman Cory Murphy added his first goal as a Devil as New Jersey posted its 10th win in 12 games.
Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders, who have dropped two straight after winning four in a row. Martin Biron had 29 saves for New York.
The game also marked the return of Elias to the Devils’ lineup. He missed the first 13 coming back from hip and groin surgery and played well, nearly scoring in each of the first two periods.
“I felt good for being out for the first time in five months,” said Elias, who played 16 minutes.
“When he’s at his best he is going to help our team,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Danis had a relatively easy night until the Islanders stepped up their game in the final period. He stopped Matt Moulson from low in the left circle with 13:17 to go and then made saves on close-in shots by Mark Streit and rookie John Tavares with just over six minutes to play.
Danis also got a piece of Kyle Okposo’s shot in the waning seconds that slid along the goal-line and was cleared.
“I didn’t know the last one was that close,” Danis said. “I watched the replay on the Jumbotron and didn’t realize the puck went across the goal line like that.”
Islanders defenceman Radek Martinek had to be helped off the ice with about 5:45 to play after appearing to hurt his right leg in front of the New Jersey bench.
After the game, Islanders coach Scott Gordon did not know the extent of his injury.
Rolston’s winner came just 24 seconds after Andy Sutton was sent off for hooking in the second period. Defenceman Andy Greene, who set up Niclas Bergfors’ power-play, game winner against Washington on Wednesday, walked the puck across the blue-line and feathered it to Rolston on the point for a hard shot.
The goal was the second in as many games for 36-year-old Rolston, and his 100th for the Devils.
“We’re really battling,” said Rolston, who is in his second stint in New Jersey. “We are really played well tonight. We had a lot of good scoring opportunities and the last game we had two huge power-play goals and we got another tonight. Our power play hasn’t been the greatest but it’s coming, and it will improve with Patty coming back.”
Biron took the blame on Murphy’s goal on a shot from the right point that tied the game early in the second period.
“I tried to steer it to the corner before I stopped it,” Biron said. “It got the underneath of my blade and snuck through. It was a bad goal at a bad time in the game. This was a game we could have won 1-0 and we gave them two opportunities and they took them.”
Murphy was grateful.
“It was pretty lucky, but I’ll take it,” Murphy said.
Sean Bergenheim set Nielson’s goal at 6:23 of the first period. He outdueled Bergfors for the puck along the left boards and centred a pass to Nielsen, who rolled it past Danis after almost whiffing on his first shot.
NOTES: Nielsen’s goal was his first in 11 games against the Devils. … Before the game, the Devils put D Johnny Oduya and C Rob Niedermayer on injured reserve and activated Elias. … Ilkka Pikkarainen earned his first NHL point on Murphy’s goal. … With the win, Danis becomes the fourth Devils’ goalie to win his first two appearances, joining John Vanbiesbrouck (4), Alain Chevrier (2) and Brodeur (2), who got his second night off in 14 games this season.