UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Once the game goes to a shootout, the New Jersey Devils are already a beaten team.
They have been pushed past overtime 10 times this season, and have lost every one of the tiebreakers. The latest, a 2-1 defeat to the also-ran New York Islanders on Saturday night, pushed the Devils closer to missing the playoffs.
“Even if we were just .500 on those, we’d have an extra four or five points and we wouldn’t be in this situation,” said forward Patrik Elias, whose miss in the second round ended the game.
Not only aren’t the Devils coming out on top, they are having trouble scoring. Only once in 30 shootout tries this season have they managed a goal. In seven of the 10 shootouts, they were behind 1-0 before their first attempt.
That was the case again Saturday when Frans Nielsen started with a goal, and Brock Nelson added one in the second round.
New Jersey has lost 14 consecutive shootouts, including two in the past two games.
“We’re at the point we can pretty much try everything because what we’re doing is not working,” forward Damien Brunner said. “Maybe we have to start throwing some jokes around on the bench. It can’t get any worse.”
Nielsen scored in the second period, when a puck struck Elias in the pants and caromed in to give the Islanders a brief 1-0 lead.
Cory Schneider played well otherwise and made 19 saves, but the Devils are five points below the wild-card cutoff with eight games left and will have to jump over several teams.
“We had a chance to actually get ourselves back in the race,” he said of the Devils, 2-4-2 in their past eight. “We got a point, but if we had gotten two extra points the past two we’d really be making noise.
“I don’t know if it’s in our heads or what. There is no real point in elaborating. It’s just not good enough.”
The Islanders are 5-2-1 in the last eight games, relishing the role of late-season spoilers.
“It was a fun game to play,” Nielsen said. “We’re a young team and we’re working hard.”
In this shootout, New York’s Anders Nilsson turned aside Adam Henrique, who scored in regulation, and then Elias to win it. Nilsson made 23 traditional saves.
New Jersey closed the gap in shots during the second and erased its deficit on Henrique’s career-high 25th goal with 9:40 left. Henrique has a goal in back-to-back games following a seven-game drought.
The Islanders had gone ahead 2:12 into the second. Nielsen drove to the net, and defenceman Peter Harrold tried to sweep away the puck but knocked it in off teammate Elias for Nielsen’s 23rd goal.
“It hit me somewhere in the pants,” Elias said. “A little unlucky there. I knew I was in trouble.”
The Devils nearly got even sooner when Mark Fayne fired a hard shot from the blue line that Nilsson smothered in his midsection at 4:23. It was New Jersey’s third shot of the second, one more than in the first.
Nielsen almost struck again when he came in on a short-handed breakaway with 6:47 left in the second. He drew a slashing penalty, but New York couldn’t capitalize. The Islanders were outshot 11-7 in the frame, yet killed three Devils power plays.
New Jersey had a 7-3 shots advantage in the uneventful and scoreless third period and 4-1 in overtime. The Islanders had only 11 shots after the first period.
They came out aggressively early and finished checks in all three zones in the first, including big hits by Colin McDonald, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck that riled up the crowd.
Mike Halmo also threw his body around, and then ripped a shot that Schneider snagged with his glove to keep the game scoreless with 4:36 left. That gave New York a 7-2 edge in shots.
“The first period was a disaster,” Brunner said, “but then we got better.”
When Ryan Carter got a hit in, he was called for boarding for drilling Islanders forward Johan Sundstrom from behind in front of the penalty box with 4:15 to go.
The Islanders outshot the Devils 9-2 in the first and outhit them 19-4—with Anders Lee having four.
“We’re battling and working extremely hard,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “I don’t think we gave them much.”
NOTES: The Devils matched their season low with the two-shot first period. … Steve Bernier was in the New Jersey lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous two games. … Reid Boucher, now playing with AHL Albany, scored the Devils’ lone shootout goal this season. … With Kyle Okposo missing his second straight game because of a lower-body injury, the Islanders had 10 rookies in the lineup.