Islanders break losing streak with win over Red Wings
Kyle Palmieri has seen bad before. He knows this isn’t it.
“You go through ups and downs,” the former Duck and Devil said after the Islanders snapped a season-worst six-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over the Red Wings at UBS Arena on Friday night.
“Over the course of the season, it’s never all good and it’s usually never all bad. I’ve been on bad teams before. It’s not that feeling here. We knew it was going to turn. It’s incredibly hard sometimes to believe in that, but we knew it would.”
In his third game back from a lengthy injury absence, Palmieri had primary assists on goals by linemates Anders Lee and Brock Nelson.
The Islanders (24-22-5) scored two or fewer goals for the 11th time in 12 games but did score a third-period goal for the first time in those 12 games.
The Islanders’ power-play drought deepened as they went 0-for-4, leaving them 0-for-24 in their last nine games and 3-for-63 in their last 23. But Ilya Sorokin backed a strong defensive performance with 23 saves for his fourth shutout.
“It was an important two points,” Sorokin said. “We need to feel a win, so, yes, it’s very important for us.”
The Islanders, who moved back into 10th place in the Eastern Conference, four points out of a playoff position, won for only the third time in January after entering the game on a 1-7-3 skid.
The Red Wings (21-19-8) got 26 saves from Magnus Hellberg but also were 0-for-4 on the power play as they played on back-to-back nights. They would have passed the Islanders in the standings with a regulation win.
It sure felt as if the Islanders’ season was on the brink as they opened a two-game homestand that precedes their eight-day All-Star break/bye week. They will host Vegas on Saturday night.
The Islanders know time is running short to turn around their season and avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight year.
“I think everybody maybe feels a little bit lighter,” said Nelson, who fired a long-range wrist shot through traffic to make it 2-0 at 4:31 of the third period. “Take a deep breath now and refocus and try to finish tomorrow before the break on a high note.”
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead at 4:44 of the second period as Lee, falling to his stomach, redirected Nelson’s feed (that Palmieri first tipped) for his 400th career point.
“There were some moments in this stretch where we were playing good hockey,” Lee said. “We just weren’t putting it together and we were shooting ourselves in the foot too many times. That was putting us behind in games or costing us late in them.”
Coach Lane Lambert needs to consider all options for the Islanders to escape their rut.
On Friday, he dropped Josh Bailey, the longest-tenured Islander and one of only three in franchise history to play 1,000 games for the team, to the fourth line with rookie center Aatu Raty and Matt Martin.
Bailey, 33, has struggled through his 15th NHL season with six goals and 13 assists in 47 games. He’s gone without a goal in 15 games and has only four assists in that span.
But Lambert flip-flopped Raty with Casey Cizikas late in the second period, putting Raty on top-line center Mathew Barzal’s right wing while Cizikas resumed centering the fourth line.
“We know we have to put some wins together and it starts with the first one and this is it,” Lambert said. “It’s nice to see our guys get rewarded.”