NHL Hockey

Metro-leading Isles visit Devils seeking sharper play

The New York Islanders are surprisingly sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, ahead of the defending Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins in the hotly contested division.

Not only are they in a good perch, the Islanders (30-16-6, 66 points) have lost one game in regulation in their last nine outings (6-1-2).

So, you'd think they'd be feeling good about themselves these days. Guess again.

"The last couple of games, you see little stuff creeping into our game," defenseman Scott Mayfield told Newsday after his team dropped a 3-1 game to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, offering a warning sign.

If you want to see the glass as half-empty, New York heads into Thursday's clash at the New Jersey Devils with just one victory in its last four games (1-1-2).

Moreover, as Mayfield alluded to, the Islanders are a bit off their game, which came to a head in the Boston loss. They failed to regroup after a potential go-ahead goal was disallowed early in the third period by an offside call, and soon after fell behind for good.

"It's a game of inches. If you're one inch on the blue line there, that's probably defining," coach Barry Trotz said. "We didn't take advantage of that extra inch. We got a goal called back, and we turned the puck over and they got their second goal."

"The second goal was the turning point."

The Islanders then blew a golden chance to get back even, but failed to convert on a four-minute power play late in the third period.

"It's tough in a road setting. You could see their crowd really responded to that," Anders Lee said of the disallowed goal. "It's almost like a goal against. I thought we responded just fine, but we just weren't able to tie it up in the end."

Certainly the Islanders have an opportunity to get back on track against the struggling Devils (20-25-7, 47 points), who have just two victories in their last seven games.

New Jersey is coming off a dispiriting 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, a game that was tied going into the third period but became a blowout in a hurry after the Kings tallied 32 seconds into the final frame and scored twice more before the two-minute mark.

"They scored that power-play goal, it's 19 minutes left in the game still. It's 2-1 at that point," defenseman Andy Greene told the Newark Star-Ledger. "Yeah, we're upset we did it, but you've got to move on. You've got to be ready and just go get ready for the next shift, put two, three, four shifts together, create some momentum that way. We didn't."

"That's been the challenge of this team this year," Devils head coach John Hynes added. "I think every year you coach, you get different challenges for your teams and different challenges from the league. The challenge this year has been a lot of the (breakdowns) I just said.

"For whatever reason tonight, they were there, and they were there glaringly. You have to continue to find ways to get guys to play better in those situations. That's your job as coach."

On Wednesday, the Devils traded forward Brian Boyle, a pending unrestricted free-agent, to the Nashville Predators for a second-round draft choice. Boyle ranked fourth on the team with 13 goals this season.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 6, 2019

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