DETROIT — The final was 5-1, which looks like a rout. But the Islanders perhaps were more frustrated by the fact that they controlled play against the Red Wings in the first period, only to come away down two goals. Then things got away from them.
A playoff spot also got away from them Saturday, with the upstart Devils leapfrogging the Islanders by earning a point and the Penguins also edging a point ahead of them with a win.
The Islanders, still with three games in hand on the Devils, two on the Rangers and one on the Penguins, sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
“Yeah, frustrating,” Travis Hamonic said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
Tomas Jurco’s goal at 14:25 of the first after a ho-hum effort in the defensive zone by Brock Nelson’s line could have been overcome, as it was only the Red Wings’ third shot of the game.
But with the teams playing four-on-four in the closing minutes of the first period, Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin raced through the Islanders’ defense and skittered a pass across the crease. Defenseman Kyle Quincey beat Ryan Strome to the puck and his backhand crawled over Jaroslav Halak, a play that both Strome and Halak needed to make.
Even then, the Islanders still were in it, and they had a four-on-three power play for a minute in the last 1:15 of the first.
Jack Capuano had Johnny Boychuk available, back after missing 11 straight games with a shoulder injury, but chose to stick with Marek Zidlicky. The Isles didn’t get a shot through on Petr Mrazek, the period ended and the Red Wings chased Halak with two more goals in a 2:38 span of the second.
Mike Green scored at 7:32 with the Red Wings skating five-on-three and Tomas Tatar skipped through two Islanders to flick a backhand rebound past Halak, prompting Capuano to go with J-F Berube for the remainder of the game.
Thomas Greiss was the odd man out in the Isles’ three- goaltender situation, but Greiss will get the start Sunday against Edmonton at Barclays Center.
“Our power play needs to be better and our goaltending needs to be better,” Capuano said after Halak allowed four goals on 13 shots. “I thought their guy [Mrazek] was the difference in the game.”
A wacky 33-minute delay before the start of the third — the Joe Louis Arena Zamboni caught one of the metal pegs in its gears and dragged it, digging a deep gash in the ice — didn’t have an impact besides prolonging the inevitable.
After Larkin and John Tavares traded third-period goals, the Isles raced back to host the Oilers on Sunday, eager to put this one to bed with their packed schedule and the packed Eastern Conference standings.
“This time of year, you take it day by day,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “That’s the only way to approach it. The most important two points are the ones available tomorrow. You take a lesson here and move on.”
“I can’t remember when the standings have been this tight this late in the year,” Hamonic said. “Every game is important and you can’t dwell on these.”