UNIONDALE, N.Y. – A pair of shutout losses in three games aren’t giving the surging New Jersey Devils reason to panic, but there is no cause for celebration, either.
“We were playing against a team that had nothing to lose and we just didn’t play enough Devils hockey,” forward Bobby Holik said after New Jersey’s lacklustre 4-0 loss to the lowly New York Islanders on Saturday night.
Yann Danis made a career-high 40 saves for his first shutout in more than three years, and the Islanders’ first in exactly one year. New York had lost four straight to New Jersey this season, but finished a Devils’ road trip they hope isn’t a sign of things to come.
New Jersey lost 4-0 at Florida on Tuesday, when they allowed 36 shots, then escaped with a 3-2 shootout win at Tampa Bay on Thursday after being outshot 41-40. The trip came on the heels of consecutive home wins over Boston and San Jose, the Eastern and Western Conference leaders.
The Devils, who have 15 victories in 20 games, had won seven straight away from home before this trip. New Jersey coach Brent Sutter wasn’t happy with the run-and-gun game his club got into with the Islanders, even though the Devils had a 40-38 edge in shots.
“This road trip should be a good wake-up call for these guys,” Sutter said. “I certainly hope it is. I haven’t been overly pleased with how we’ve played. We got away with two points in Tampa Bay, very fortunate, but we didn’t get away with it in the other two games.”
The Devils, who lead by eight points in the Atlantic Division, are nine behind Boston. Scott Clemmensen stopped 34 shots, but allowed goals to Sean Bergenheim, Jon Sim, Kyle Okposo and Bill Guerin.
Danis earned his second NHL shutout and first since Oct. 12, 2005. The Islanders (18-35-6), who have the worst record in the NHL, won for the second time in nine games (2-6-1). It was New York’s first shutout of the season and their first in 79 games, dating back to Rick DiPietro’s 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Feb. 21, 2008.
“I came close a few times earlier in the season,” Danis said. “I just wanted to get the win, but with about 30 seconds left, I started thinking more about the shutout.”
Clemmensen left a bad rebound off Bergenheim’s soft shot less than a minute into the game, but denied his rebound attempt at an open net when he blocked the puck at the goal line with his outstretched stick paddle.
Bergenheim wouldn’t be thwarted about three minutes later when he took a feed from Mark Streit at the bottom of the right circle and scored at 3:50.
“That was a great save,” Bergenheim said. “That really did not feel good for me. Luckily, I got the goal a little bit later, but for sure I should’ve have two.”
It was a spirited first period for the Finnish forward, who knew Hockey Hall of Famer Jari Kurri was in attendance. Kurri is the general manager of Team Finland that will compete in next year’s Vancouver Olympics.
New York took advantage of a terrible mistake by the Devils to take a 2-0 lead early in the second.
Sim applied pressure behind the net, and Holik tried to get the puck out by passing it into the middle. At the bottom of the left circle, Devils defenceman Mike Rupp tried to corral the puck with his glove after it caromed off his skate, but it bounced right to Sim, who quickly sent in a backhander at 8:45.
“I felt I was making the right play, but the puck just bounced,” Holik said. “If I had the opportunity again I would make the same play because you don’t expect the puck to explode off your stick.”
Danis’ best save in New Jersey’s 12-shot first period came when Travis Zajac was alone in front and fired a rising drive that Danis tipped over the net.
He shined in the second when the Devils peppered him with 19 shots. New Jersey scoring leader Zach Parise, second in the NHL with 35 goals, had three whacks from in close but was stopped by Danis as he braced himself against the right post.
Danis, signed as a free agent last July, also turned away David Clarkson’s one-timer with just over two minutes left in the period.
Okposo made it 3-0 with 3:53 left in the game, and Guerin added a power-play goal 1:45 later. Dainius Zubrus was then stopped on a sort-handed breakaway chance in the closing minutes.
Notes: Sim has scored in consecutive games after not having any between Dec. 16 and Thursday’s loss to Carolina. … Bergenheim went 11 games without a goal, dating to Jan. 2 at Phoenix. … Danis stopped 39 shots in a 2-1 win over Anaheim on Jan. 21. … Before Tuesday’s 4-0 loss at Florida, the Devils hadn’t been shut out on the road since April 8, 2008.