Maybe it was the early Monday afternoon start. Maybe it was the Devils who came out with more fire. For whatever reason, the Islanders again dug themselves an early hole from which they could not recover.
For the sixth time in their last seven games, the Islanders fell behind in the first five minutes, a trend that continued when Vladimir Zharkov tallied his first NHL goal 4:22 into Monday’s 5-2 matinee loss to the Devils at the Coliseum Jack Capuano’s squad fell to 2-4-1 in those quick-trailing contests.
“We were outworked in the first period. We weren’t ready to play,” conceded Michael Grabner, who had a goal in the second period to cut the lead to 3-2.
“We have to fix that. That’s too important in this league,” added PA Parenteau, who had a possible second goal disallowed when it was ruled, perhaps incorrectly, that Graber had interfered with Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
It was the second straight shaky outing for rookie Kevin Poulin, who was in goal Thursday against Ottawa and allowed two goals on eight shots before being replaced. Monday’s contest saw Zharkov and Ilya Kovalchuk score goals in a 57-second span early in the first.
They had a lot of shots (early). It was like a torpedo out there,” said Poulin, who was making just his fourth NHL start. “It was a different game from the others."
The Devils somehow lost their last meeting against the Islanders, 5-1, despite outshooting New York by the unfathomable margin of 35-14. New Jersey played it a lot closer to the vest this time around and finished with a 27-25 edge in shots.
“You can’t give a team like that two or three-goal lead, but I thought we were better in the second and third period,” Capuano said. “(Poulin) made some big saves for us, but if you ask him he’d probably say he would like a couple of those goals back.”
Rick DiPietro stopped 40 shots in a win over Buffalo on Saturday night, but was scratched Monday with Nathan Lawson dressing as the backup. The Isles insist the injury-plagued DiPietro, who has played just 17 games this season, was healthy, but it’s hard not to view it as yet another red flag.
“Ricky was given a maintenance day. He’s fine,” Capuano said. “Physically he was ready.”
Doug Mittler is a researcher/reporter for ESPN The Magazine.