Eberle, Islanders hand Devils first regulation loss

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Jordan Eberle scored twice, and Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists for the New York Islanders in a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday. 

Semyon Varlamov had his shutout streak end at 142:10 but made 30 saves for the Islanders (3-1-0), who were 2-for-3 on the power play. Noah Dobson had two assists. 

The teams play again at Prudential Center on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV). 

“We only had one [goal] the last two, so we wanted to get back to it,” Islanders center Brock Nelson said. “We have confidence in everybody in the room. … As much as everybody would like for the team to score six every night, that’s not how it works, so we’ve just got to find ways to win.” 

Nathan Bastian scored, and Scott Wedgewood started and made 31 saves for the Devils (2-1-1) after goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was placed on the NHL list of players unavailable to play or practice in accordance with COVID-19 protocols Thursday. It was Wedgewood’s first start since Feb. 13, 2018, when he made 28 saves for the Arizona Coyotes in a 2-1 win at the San Jose Sharks. 

“I was told this morning at pregame skate, and then I obviously feel for [Blackwood] kind of getting that call,” Wedgewood said. “His health is important, so taking the right precautions is good for him. On my end I was excited. It’s been a long time since I got in the net at the NHL level, over three years I think it’s been, so I was excited to see what I can do and help the guys win.” 

Barzal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 4:43 of the first period when he carried the puck from the neutral zone and scored with a wrist shot from the right circle.

“I’m always trying to grow my game,” said Barzal, who has scored twice in four games. “Obviously, just the last couple of years [I’ve been] pass first and whatnot, but I’d still say that’s still my game. One of my best attributes I think would be my passing, it always has been. But I play with ‘Ebs’ and [Anders Lee], who are good at creating space and giving me chances, so it was like that tonight. … I think for me, just try to be more assertive. When I do get into a chance where it’s like pass or shoot, just try to bear down and let one go.” 

Video: NJD@NYI: Barzal picks top corner with wrist shot

Eberle extended New York’s lead to 2-0 at 19:39 of the first. Lee outmuscled defenseman P.K. Subban for the puck near the Devils blue line and chipped it to Eberle, who skated in alone and put a backhand past Wedgewood. 

The Islanders outshot the Devils 15-6 in the first period. 

“The first period was more of our identity,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “New Jersey has some really good speed, they sort of try to fly into the zone a little bit. I thought we just played the right way. We jumped on them; they’ve been a quick-start team. I thought that was real key.” 

Bastian ended Varlamov’s shutout streak at 2:10 of the second period with a wrist shot from between the circles to make it 2-1. 

Video: NJD@NYI: Bastian pots wrist shot from the slot

Travis Zajac nearly tied it for New Jersey, but his slap shot hit the crossbar at 16:24 of the second period. 

“They’re a team, you know what you’re going to get out of them,” Bastian said. “They play hard, they’re fast and always play the right way. We’re going to see them a bunch this year and we’ll put this first one behind us.” 

Eberle scored his second of the game on a rebound off the end boards for a power-play goal at 1:56 of the third to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead. 

“I think my linemates (Barzal, Lee), we created a few chances,” Eberle said. “We’ve had some good looks the past few games and hit a few posts, we just haven’t really capitalized. It’s nice that we finished a few off today.”

New York scored again on the power play when Nelson redirected a shot from Nick Leddy at 5:16 for the 4-1 final. 

NOTES: Varlamov’s shutout streak was the eighth longest to start a season in NHL history and longest since Darcy Kuemper with the Minnesota Wild in 2014-15 (164:02). The record is held by Lorne Chabot, who started the 1930-31 season with a streak of 213:55 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. … With Blackwood unavailable, Eric Comrie was Wedgewood’s backup. Comrie was claimed off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 12.  

Video: Eberle scores two as Islanders defeat Devils, 4-1

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