DETROIT — Sure, there’s some frustration because every point is so critical in this playoff push.
But mostly, the Islanders’ 2-1 loss to the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon left them shaking their heads after their lopsided advantage in scoring chances went for naught. They outshot the Wings 42-22.
“You can’t even really be upset,” center Mathew Barzal said. “We did everything we could except bury a couple. We were almost just laughing after the game, like, we played so well and we should have been rewarded and we just weren’t today.”
Strong performance aside, it remains to be seen how costly a loss this one might be. The Islanders (89 points) remained two points behind the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals and two points ahead of the third-place Penguins. The Isles, who have 11 games remaining, have a game in hand on each.
The Islanders, who got 20 saves from Thomas Greiss in his fifth straight start and eighth straight appearance, were without fourth-line center Casey Cizikas, a late scratch after suffering a lower-body strain in warmups.
Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves and Andreas Athanasiou scored twice for the Red Wings, who entered on a 1-9-3 slide.
“I think we played a pretty solid game,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, who hit the post with a wrist shot with 2:15 left in the third period. “We had plenty of opportunities to score. Either we didn’t get that bounce or there was a big save. Points are so crucial right now. When you do play that well and you don’t end up with any, it’s frustrating.”
The Islanders, who will play in Minnesota on Sunday as they seek their first playoff berth since 2016, were coming off strong performances at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in Monday’s 2-0 win over the Blue Jackets and Thursday’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens. In many ways, Saturday’s game was a continuation of those efforts.
“Sometimes you don’t worry about necessarily the results but the process and the effort and how you’re playing,” coach Barry Trotz said. “If you’re playing well, you’ll get the results.”
The Islanders had several chances to tie the score after Pulock hit the post, even after Cal Clutterbuck was called for high sticking Athanasiou at 18:29. With Greiss pulled for an extra skater, rookie defenseman Devon Toews had a chance near the crease in the waning seconds that didn’t make it to Bernier.
Bernier got his paddle on Valtteri Filppula’s chance at the crease at 13:51 of the third period, making an acrobatic save.
“Bernier had one of those nights,” Trotz said. “The one with the paddle off Filppula, he throws the paddle up and it’s going in the net. We’re probably sitting here, if he doesn’t have that night, it’s a 4-1 win. You’ve got to take it realistically when you get chances. We just couldn’t bury them today.”
Still, it’s the fourth straight game in which the Islanders scored two or fewer goals. And despite eight power-play shots, they were 0-for-2 on the man advantage, leaving them 0-for-24 over 11 games.
Anders Lee tied the score at 1-1 at 10:18 of the first period to extend his goal streak to three games. Athanasiou had opened the scoring with a feed from the right boards that deflected in off Pulock’s left leg at 2:59.
Athanasiou scored the winner at 9:57 of the second period, slipping in the puck at the left post after Tyler Bertuzzi had taken the Red Wings’ first shot of the period just six seconds earlier.