Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves and came within 14 seconds of his fourth shutout, and the red-hot New York Islanders beat the slumping Devils 2-1 on Tuesday night in New Jersey's first home game with fans in almost a year.
Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom broke a scoreless tie with a wicked wrist shot early in the third period. Anders Lee knocked in his own rebound just under seven minutes later for the New York, which is 9-2-2 in its last 13.
Varlamov lost his shutout bid with 13.2 seconds to play when Miles Wood scored with the Devils' net empty. The Islanders were trying for their second straight shutout after Ilya Sorokin blanked Pittsburgh 2-0 on Sunday.
Aaron Dell made 18 saves in his second start for New Jersey, which has lost six of seven. Pavel Zacha had his current NHL-leading 10-game point streak snapped.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, last week gave permission for fans to attend sports and entertainment events starting in March. Indoor venues with a seating capacity of 5,000 or more were allowed to have 10% capacity, meaning 1,800 could attend the game.
Varlamov was the difference, particularly in the middle period when New York took three penalties and was outshot 16-5. The 32-year-old Russian was in perfect position on all of them. He also stopped all four New Jersey power plays.
Wahlstrom took a pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau. near his own blue line, skated all the way to the Devils' zone and snapped a shot between the legs of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov into the net 70 seconds into the period. It extended his point-scoring streak to five games (two goals, four assists).
Lee got his 10th of the season, stuffing a missed shot by former Devils captain Andy Greene past Dell at 7:51.
A SPACED-OUT SELLOUT
The game was the first with fans for the Islanders and Devils since March 10, 2020. New Jersey was home against Pittsburgh and New York was at Vancouver.
“It was awesome,” Devils forward Kyle Palmieri said between periods.
The club offered its ticket allotment first to season-ticket holders for 24 hours. A public sale followed. Within 48 hours, the Devils sold out their first eight games.
Fans entering the Prudential Center had their temperatures taken at the door. There was designated, distanced seating; contactless transactions; and enhanced cleaning procedures.
NOTES: Devils captain and C Nico Hischier missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... New Jersey wore its reverse retro jerseys — green shirts, gloves and helmets and red pants. ... Islanders RW Cal Clutterbuck returned to the lineup after missing two games with an undisclosed injury.
Islanders: Return home for games against the Sabres on Thursday and Saturday. New York will play 16 games this month, one fewer than the Devils.
Devils: Finish their five-game homestand with contests against the Rangers on Thursday and Saturday.
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