This was the sort of performance on a Sunday in December that the Islanders could overlook in recent seasons. It was OK in parts, ugly in others, and a 4-3 overtime loss to the Red Wings at Barclays Center could be seen as a decent result on a sluggish evening.
But despite earning at least a point in their last four games (3-0-1), the Islanders are too far down the Eastern Conference standings to be consoled by salvaging a point and doing just enough to get to overtime.
The point allowed them to pull into a tie for 15th in the Eastern Conference with the Sabres, the first time since Nov. 14 that the Isles haven’t had the conference basement to themselves. But that still is a long way from respectability.
“It hung around for them,” Anders Lee said after Danny DeKeyser’s goal at 1:02 of overtime snapped the Isles’ winning streak at three games. “They didn’t exactly take it from us. We allowed them to take it.”
Josh Bailey’s rebound sweep past Petr Mrazek with 4:21 left in regulation saved the Isles from another blown game late in the third period. Henrik Zetterberg’s deflection had beaten Jaroslav Halak (30 saves) with 6:54 to go.
But there were too-long stretches of the second and third periods when the Red Wings’ active forecheck forced turnovers and the Islanders’ forwards already were long gone from the defensive zone.
Dennis Seidenberg made an ill-advised backhand pass that went right to Thomas Vanek, who fed Mike Green for a 2-1 Wings lead at 14:40 of the second period. Johnny Boychuk, who had tied the score at 1:52 of the third, was forced into a bad spot by two Wings forwards with no help in sight just before Zetterberg tipped Jonathan Ericsson’s shot home.
“Certain guys struggled,” coach Jack Capuano said. “I’m not going to name names, but certain guys need to find their game. They’re getting ice time and they need to figure it out.”
The Bailey-John Tavares-Brock Nelson line produced the late tying goal off a shot by Seidenberg that hit a mob in front of Mrazek. Both Tavares and Bailey got sticks on the puck before it slithered in. But that top line was caught up ice on the first of Green’s two goals and hurrying out of the zone on Zetterberg’s go-ahead score.
“You’re going to have games like this where you don’t play your best,” Bailey said. “You want to salvage two points. Tonight we were only able to get one.”
The game started the way the Islanders wanted it to, with a few good chances and Lee scoring from the slot off a good rush and feed by Cal Clutterbuck at 5:16. Mrazek (32 saves) made a couple of strong stops in the first period and the first half of the second, none better than a glove save on Ryan Strome off a rebound in front of the Red Wings’ net.
Green thought he had a hat trick at 6:32 of the third when his wrister got through Halak, but Capuano challenged for goaltender interference and won his case, with the officials deciding that Luke Glendening impeded Halak in the crease.
But the Islanders didn’t perk up after their good fortune. Ultimately, it cost them, and every lost point is costly right now.
“We had our opportunities,” Lee said. “We were just playing catch-up a little too much.”