DETROIT — Jack Capuano called it puck luck — those bad bounces that seem intent on ruining your night, and sometimes your season. Well, the Capuano era may be over, but Friday night, one painful vestige remained.
In one of their most disappointing losses of the season, the Islanders came back twice to tie the score before falling to the Red Wings, 5-4, at Joe Louis Arena on Danny DeKeyser’s goal with 27.9 seconds left.
DeKeyser shot in the general vicinity of the net and the puck took care of everything else, bouncing off Nick Leddy and then Thomas Hickey before making its way past Thomas Greiss.
“That’s tough,” coach Doug Weight said. “No one is in front of the net and two shin pads. That’s a tough one. It’s fluky. That’s hockey. It’s just sour. We were rolling and we fought our way back.”
“It changed direction twice and it stinks,” Hickey said. “There’s nothing else to say, honestly. We didn’t play what we’re capable of, but I still think we played well enough to win the game. Right now, it’s just disappointing.”
Jason Chimera had given the Islanders a smattering of hope, tipping in the equalizer with 2:26 left after Darren Helm lost control of the puck near the crease.
But the Islanders, who haven’t won once this season after trailing in the third period, proved that no matter how much seemingly has changed under Weight, there’s still so much more to go. They fell to 6-10-4 on the road and have a season-defining test before them: After two home games, they will play 13 of their next 16 on the road.
Friday night would have been a perfect time to shed the road woes and stake true claim to their new identity. They had won five of six under Weight and seemed to have a confidence that had escaped them all season. What’s more, they were playing the team with the fewest points in the Eastern Conference, backstopped by Petr Mzarek, one of the worst goalies in the league (he entered the game with an .894 save percentage, 57th out of 65 goalies.
The Islanders went 1-for-5 on the power play, but that second-period man-up goal — John Tavares’ top-shelfer — tied the score at 3 and seemed to portend good things. For 13 seconds, that is, until Henrik Zetterberg collected Gustav Nyquist’s pass in the slot and one-timed it over Greiss’ left shoulder at 17:34.
It only got worse: Cal Clutterbuck, who returned after missing Tuesday night’s game with a lower-body injury, came out in the second period for the same reason and didn’t return. It’s unclear if he reinjured himself or if the injury was a new one. Weight said he will not play Saturday night when the Islanders return home to face Carolina.
The Islanders took a 2-1 lead on Andrew Ladd’s blast 11:35 into the first period, but Detroit scored the next two.
After Chimera’s goal, Weight said he was convinced “we’re going to get to OT and battle.”
He added, “I think this team is a good team and I think we had some lack of belief early because we had some bounces against us and we didn’t play consistent hockey. I always believed we’re a playoff team, and I think we have 35 games or so to prove it.”