NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Maybe the New Jersey Devils should retire more numbers. Every time they do it, they win.
Kyle Palmieri scored two third-period goals and the Devils opened some daylight on the New York Islanders in the race for a wild-card playoff berth and made those attending Patrik Elias’ jersey retirement go home happy with a 2-1 victory Saturday night.
“Actually I saw a stat … tweeted out that we were undefeated so we had to keep that going,” Palmieri said after leading the Devils’ comeback. “It was cool. It was a pretty cool event any time you’re a part of this. I’ve been in a couple of ceremonies in the past and it’s cool to celebrate the guys you grew up watching.”
Taylor Hall extended his NHL-best points streak to 14 games with two assists, and Keith Kinkaid made 30 saves as the Devils maintained a five-point lead over Columbus in the race for the top wild-card spot, and increased their lead over the ninth-place Islanders to seven points.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and gave New Jersey a 5-0 record in games in which they retire a jersey number.
Elias was the team’s career scoring leader and a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Jordan Eberle scored in the second period for the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak was outstanding, making 31 saves for New York, which has lost three straight (0-2-1).
Islanders forward Andrew Ladd said this was a tough game to lose. It marked the second time this week New York had a lead after two periods and lost.
“Absolutely, especially a third-period loss,” Ladd said. “It’s deflating. We had a real opportunity to start moving up. You give up a game like that and it knocks you back a little bit. It’s frustrating. I don’t know any other way to say it. We have to find a way to pick ourselves up and keep going.”
Palmeri got his inner with 8:49 to play, when he redirected Sami Vatanen’s shot from the right point past Halakpoin. It was his 16th goal of the season and came from the goaltender’s crease.
The Devils survived a late Islanders’ power play and a hard shot by Eberle in the closing minute with the New York net empty.
“It was huge game,” Kinkaid said. “Lots of blocks and we didn’t give up much. That’s playoff hockey right there. Pucks didn’t get to the net and credit to all our guys who sacrificed their bodies out there. When it did go through I had to do my best to make a big save when possible.”
Palmieri tied it at 1 with 13:25 left with a shot into the upper corner of the net from low in the left circle. Hall had nudged the puck to him near the Devils blue line and Palmieri skated up the ice before ripping a shot for his 15th goal.
The Islanders had taken the lead early in the second period when Eberle capped a tic-tac-toe 3-on-2 rush by tapping Anthony Beauvillier’s pass into an open net for his 22nd goal. Rookie Matthew Barzal picked up his 49th assist of the season on the play.
Islander coach Doug Weight said his team had chances to go up 2-0 and failed to capitalize.
“It’s tough way to lose,” Weight said. “We have to find a way to get results. We have to keep digging. We are still in the neighborhood. It’s a real humbling, tough loss.”
NOTES: The Islanders acquired defenseman Brandon Davidson from Edmonton for a third-round pick in the 2019 draft earlier in the day. … The Devils sent F Blake Pietila to Binghamton (AHL). … Michael Grabner, who was acquired from the Rangers on Thursday night, played his first game for New Jersey and wore No. 40 F Blake Coleman gave Grabner the number and switched to No. 20. … New Jersey is 2-0-1 against the Islanders this season.
Islanders: At Montreal on Thursday night.
Devils: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday night
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