Mathew Barzal scored the game-winning goal with 4:53 left in the third period Thursday night for the host New York Islanders, who returned to action after a 12-day pause by beating the New Jersey Devils, 3-2, in Elmont, N.Y.
Barzal and Josh Bailey exchanged the puck twice in the Devils zone before Bailey dished back to Barzal, who was all alone in the slot as he fired a shot past goalie Jon Gillies.
Bailey and Adam Pelech, the latter of whom was named to his first All-Star Game earlier Thursday, also scored for the Islanders, who have won three straight and are 6-2-1 since snapping an 11-game losing streak Dec. 7.
Goalie Ilya Sorokin made 30 saves for New York, which played without head coach Barry Trotz (COVID-19 protocol) Thursday in its first game since Jan. 1. The Islanders’ scheduled four-game West Coast road trip, which included three games in Canada, was postponed by the NHL Dec. 31.
Yegor Sharangovich and Nathan Bastian scored for the Devils, who have lost two straight, Gillies, a third-stringer pressed into duty with Mackenzie Blackwood and Akira Schmid in protocols, made 22 saves in his third start of the season.
Nifty stickwork by Sharangovich led to his goal just before the midway point of the first period. Sharangovich, alone in the neutral zone, took a clearing pass from P.K. Subban and weaved his way through Oliver Wahlstrom and Scott Mayfield before shuffling the puck and firing a shot that sailed past Mayfield and under the stick arm of Sorokin at the 9:43 mark.
The Islanders tied the game by scoring on the power play with 1:01 left, when Bailey lunged at Anthony Beauvillier’s rebound and tucked it into the open corner of the net for his first goal at UBS Arena and his first goal since Oct. 24.
Pelech’s shot from just in front of the blue line glanced off the midsection of Devils defenseman Ryan Graves and knuckled into the net 9:22 into the second. New Jersey tied the score just after the midway point of the third, when Bastian, stationed in front of Sorokin, put his stick down and redirected a shot by Ty Smith with 9:35 left.