Islanders top Red Wings in shootout for much-needed win
The Islanders are in no position to complain about their victories, not with the way the losses have been piling up recently.
So they'll take their 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Coliseum last night for what it's worth, a much-needed victory on the heels of losing five of their previous six games.
In the shootout, Frans Nielsen was first in line for the Islanders and was the only player on either team to put the puck in the net, but the Isles know it shouldn't have come down to that.
The win was within reach in the third period, and all the Islanders needed to do was hold Detroit scoreless for essentially the amount of time it takes to sit idle at a red light on Hempstead Turnpike: 43 seconds.
But in a stroke of misfortune consistent with the Islanders' recent run, the Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk took advantage of a flurry of activity in front of goalie Kevin Poulin, shooting the puck off an Islander and into the net at 19:17 of the third to make it 4-4 and send the game to overtime.
It's become a troubling theme this season, the Islanders' inability to protect third-period leads, and it struck again Saturday night. Coach Jack Capuano said he could only shake his head on the bench and say, "Can't catch a break."
It already was a discouraging night on another front, with 38-year-old goalie Evgeni Nabokov -- playing for the first time in four games -- suffering a groin injury early in the first period that Capuano said will sideline him for some time.
The Islanders' Casey Cizikas tied the score at 2-2 at 17:50 of the second period and Brock Nelson tied it at 3-3 with a power-play goal 50 seconds before the end of the period. Cal Clutterbuck scored at 4:43 of the third to give the Islanders a 4-3 lead.
But they couldn't hold it, and after they blew the late lead, it was easy to think back to Thursday night, when they entered the third period with a 2-0 lead over the Kings but wound up with a 3-2 loss.
The Islanders' failure to close out the victory over Detroit in regulation had a discouraging, more-of-the-same feel to it, especially given how hard they fought to stay in this back-and-forth game. "It's a game of mistakes," Capuano said, "but we were resilient."
Give Poulin credit for stepping up in the shootout and stopping the Red Wings each time. He didn't start the game but played the majority of it after Nabokov suffered the groin injury less than five minutes in on the only shot he faced.
"We do a lot of shootouts in practice,'' Poulin said, "and I felt really comfortable."
The game started out in inauspicious fashion for the Islanders. John Tavares opened the scoring just four minutes in, but the Red Wings needed only nine seconds to answer, and the Islanders watched their goalie go down in the process.
The Red Wings won the faceoff and capitalized on an apparent miscommunication by the Islanders, creating a two-on-one breakaway that led to Darren Helm's goal.
Nabokov fell to the ice in an attempt to stop the goal and suffered the injury. He immediately called for the trainer and was helped off the ice.
"It was tough to see him go down," Tavares said. "He's a big part of our team, the way he's played the last number of years, and I think a lot of people don't always see what he means in our locker room."