Devils win season opener at Islanders

David Clarkson celebrates his game-winner over the Islanders.

The Devils were not about to make any apologies for the stilted quality of play borne of the 119-day lockout, and especially not for the two points they earned by beating the
Islanders, 2-1, at the Nassau Coliseum Saturday night in the season
opener for both teams.

“When you [work hard, you get] rewarded,” said David Clarkson. His wrist
shot off the half boards 8:17 into the third period beat Evgeni Nabokov for the
game-winning goal. Clarkson’s goal came just 65 seconds after Travis
Hamonic had tied the game, 1-1, with a slapshot.

“Clarkie has a flair for [scoring a] big goal,” Devils head coach Pete DeBoer said.

For much of the night, the game more closely resembled an exhibition as both teams worked out the kinks.

“[Our] structural [component was] pretty good,” DeBoer said. “Short season.
No easy games. I think we had a good camp. [It was what] probably allowed us to get two
points tonight.”

Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur did their
fair share in helping the Devils win the first game of the truncated season.

Brodeur stopped 18-of-19 shots while the Kovalchuk and Zajac authored a bit
of magic on the Devils’ first goal of the season.

“[Your] best players have to be your best players,” DeBoer said.

Zajac tapped a feed from Kovalchuk
past Evgeni Nabokov with 5:59 left in the second period to open the scoring. On the
play, four Islanders skated to the bench for a line change, allowing Zajac, Kovalchuk and Henrik Tallinder to come down on a 3-on-1. Nabokov, who finished
with 26 saves, did not have a chance.

Outside of yielding Hamonic’s goal at 7:12 of the third period, Brodeur was flawless.
He made 18 saves, including two point-blank chances from Michael Grabner and
Matt Moulson in the third, and a Hamonic slapshot with 4:14 left in the game.  

“Marty made some big saves,” DeBoer said. “Marty was excellent.”

The future Hall of Famer, and his teammates, left a frustrated Islanders
team searching for answers. The Devils forced the Islanders to shoot from the
perimeter for most of the game.

“[The Devils] make things difficult,” John Tavares said. “[We] had to play in our own end. [The] forecheck has to be better.”

Tavares, the
bedrock the franchise is being rebuilt upon, was strong throughout in his
25:31 of ice time. He was credited with four shots attempted, and was able to
maneuver through the Devils defense.

Hamonic complained that the Islanders “came out, in my opinion, a little bit
flat.” Doug Weight, who replaced Jack Capuano behind the bench due to what the team
called “medical reasons,” disavowed that notion.

“I don’t know if they were flat. They were a little jittery,” Weight said. “We
were sloppy, a little excited.”

Following the game, an Islanders spokesperson said Capuano was resting at
Long Island Jewish Hospital. He should return to the team sometime next week.

Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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