The big news for the Islanders organization on Tuesday afternoon did not carry over to a joyous night on the ice.
The Isles defensive and goaltending woes were the headlines once again in a 6-3 loss to the struggling Red Wings in Barclays Center. The Isles pumped 32 shots on Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek over the first 40 minutes and allowed just 10 shots through to Thomas Greiss, but the game was tied 3-3 heading to the third.
And Trevor Daley snapped one past Greiss off the rush with 9:57 to go, marking the ninth time in Greiss’ 18 starts that he’s allowed at least four goals. Mike Green salted away the game with 5:48 to play and the Isles dropped to 3-6-1 in their last 10.
The game put a damper on the expected announcement Wednesday morning that the Isles will be developing a new arena at Belmont Park.
“Believing it’s going to be official tomorrow, it’s great news for the franchise, for us as players, our families and certainly for the fans,” said John Tavares, who had two assists. “Really much deserved and it’s where the team has come from, where the identity is. It’ll be great news, exciting opportunity ahead.”
Tavares said the news doesn’t change his feeling about signing a new contract yet. “There’ll be time, as things progress. Whatever news today or tomorrow, it’s not going to determine or change anything at this point,” he said.
The Islanders need some things to change in the short term, however. The NHL roster freeze went into effect at 11:59 on Tuesday night, so there will be no trades or demotions until the freeze lifts on Dec. 27. That means Doug Weight will still have Greiss and Jaroslav Halak as his goaltenders for the next two games before the holiday break as well as their league-worst .892 save percentage.
“Yes, I have confidence in my goalies, of course I do,” Weight said. “They’ve got a rough time right now. They’re struggling and every shot seems like it’s perfectly placed. The last two, I don’t think anybody in the world saves them. It gets in your head.”
Anders Lee got the Isles on the board first at 6:32 but the Wings grabbed a 2-1 lead after a period. It was all Islanders in the second and power-play goals from Ryan Pulock and Josh Bailey gave them a lead that could have been extended, with all the pucks they threw on Mrazek. Instead, Pulock’s turnover led to Anthony Mantha banking one off Greiss with 4:45 to go in the second to tie it.
“We have to go out and play the third a lot better, that’s what it comes down to,” Tavares said. “Gotta be happy with the way you’re playing, continue that style and execution, like we’ve been doing all year.”
But the Isles mustered just five shots on Mrazek in the third and Jordan Eberle failed to get the puck going deep enough on the play that turned around and led to Daley’s goal on a four on three.
“I think we just had some breakdowns that ended up costing us,” Pulock said. “I guess it’s a game that you’ve kind of got to take the positives from and learn from your mistakes and move on.”
There will be better news on Wednesday regardless of the disappointment from Tuesday night. The Islanders franchise is headed to bigger and better things — a reminder of the Barclays Center era falling short of expectations was the announced 10,511 on hand Tuesday — but there is still a crucial 48 games to go in a season that needs to be successful for many reasons.
“On a good note, I think in a frustrating time, I think it’s great for the fans,” Weight said. “It’s great for the organization and everybody involved.”