McLeod, Blackwood lead Devils to 2-1 win over Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Michael McLeod scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period, Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 32 shots and the New Jersey Devils beat the playoff-bound New York Islanders 2-1 Thursday night for their fifth win in six games.

Pavel Zacha also scored for the Devils, who beat the Islanders for just the second time in seven meetings this season. Coming off an overtime win against Boston, the Devils have won consecutive games against teams headed to the postseason.

“We’re playing some good hockey as of late, beating some pretty big teams that could go pretty far in the playoffs,” McLeod said. “That’s huge for us heading into the offseason, getting that confidence as a team that we could beat these teams and if we play the right way we’re going to get the results we want.”

Devils coach Lindy Ruff liked the way his team played.

“I thought we skated really well right from the start of the game,” he said. “We moved the puck well, execution was good. … I thought we created energy right off the bat.”

Anthony Beauvillier scored on a fortunate deflection for the Islanders, who have lost three straight (0-2-1) — against Buffalo and New Jersey, the bottom two teams in the East Division — and six of their last eight (2-4-2) overall. Semyon Varlamov finished with 23 saves.

“We just got to get back a little bit to our identity,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “I think we’re cheating the game a little bit, we’re cheating our own game. … I think we’ve come out and played the right way last three games for 10-12 minutes. We don’t get a result and instead of staying with it, we all of a sudden start changing our game.”

The teams meet again Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum to conclude their season series.

Blackwood had eight saves in the first period, 11 in the second and 13 in the third to win his fifth straight start. After losing eight of his first 13 starts, he improved to 14-16-4 on the season.

“He just seems a lot calmer in goal, he seems confident,” Ruff said. “I also think we’re doing a better job in front of him.”

Kyle Palmieri, who along with Travis Zajac was facing the Devils for the first time since the two were dealt to the Islanders days before the trade deadline, was denied by Blackwood on a stuff try from the left doorstep with 7:21 remaining.

The Islanders pulled Varlamov for an extra skater with about 1 1/2 minutes left, but couldn’t tie it.

“We had pockets of the game where we got to our game, but credit to them — I think they played their game,” Palmieri said. “It was a fast-attacking game but I think we saw how we could be successful against them and I don’t think we were able to do it for the full game. That was the difference.”

Trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes, the Islanders tied it early in the second period when Scott Mayfield’s centering pass for a streaking Beauvillier went off Beauvillier’s skate and in at 5:35. It was Beauvillier’s 15th of the season.

The Devils regained the lead late in the middle period when McLeod quickly beat Varlamov from the right side for his ninth with 4 1/2 minutes left.

The Islanders outshot the Devils 6-1 over the first 8:14 of the game, but couldn’t take advantage. New Jersey then turned it around and had an 11-2 edge the rest of the period.

Zacha gave the Devils a 1-0 lead with 5:49 left in the first. It was his 16th goal and extended his career high to 34 points this season.

SURGING

Zacha has six goals and nine points in his last seven games. … Severson has five assists in a five-game point streak. … Beauvillier extended his point streak to five games with five goals and six points in the stretch. He has seven goals and four assists in his last nine games.

LINEUPS

Mathew Barzal was back in the Islanders’ lineup after sitting out Tuesday against Buffalo, ending his streak of 284 consecutive games. RW Jordan Eberle and D Andy Greene, another former Devil, sat out.

The Devils had 20-year-old LW Nolan Foote in the lineup after he rejoined the team from Binghamton of the AHL. New Jersey was without LW Andreas Johnsson (lower-body injury) for the sixth straight game, RW Mikhail Maltsev (lower-body injury) for the third straight, and D Ty Smith (upper-body injury) for the second straight. Also, LW Miles Wood, D P.K. Subban, and D Jonas Siegenthaler were scratched.

ON THE MOVE

The Devils announced the relocation of their AHL franchise from Binghamton to Utica, New York, under a 10-year agreement. This marks the second time the Devils’ AHL team will be in Utica. They played as the Utica Devils from 1987-93. They were also the Albany River Rats (1993-2006), Lowell Devils (2006-10), Albany Devils (2010-17). They will now be called the Utica Comets beginning with the 2021-22 season.

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