Frans Nielsen’s trademark backhand capped off a thrilling shootout win, as the New York Islanders clipped the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 Saturday Night at Nassau Coliseum.
Goaltender Kevin Poulin stopped all three shootout attempts and Nielsen’s winner sealed a heart-pounding, back-and-forth game that saw three lead changes, wild flurries of action and the Isles fifth-straight victory over the Red Wings.
“It was a battle out there,” Nielsen said after the game. “There were a lot of emotions out there, being down by one, coming back, then they came back. It was a fun game being a part of and it would have been really tough to lose that one.”
John Tavares, Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson and Cal Clutterbuck scored in regulation for the Islanders, while Poulin stopped 19 of 22 shots in relief of Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov left the game 4:12 into the first period with a groin injury and did not return.
“You have to be ready for everything and I just jumped in there and made the saves,” Poulin said. “It’s not the best-case scenario, but you have to do it when your team needs you.”
The Islanders needed him the most in the shootout, when the 23-year-old goaltender stopped Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi.
“We do a lot of shootouts in practice,” Poulin said. “I felt really comfortable going into the shootout.”
The road to the shootout was a wild one and began late in the second period when the Islanders trailed 2-1 with 2:10 to play. Cizikas tied the score with a hard-working goal from the fourth line and triggered a frantic 1:20 where both teams found twine. Thirty-three seconds after Cizikas’ goal, Johan Franzen put the Wings ahead, before Brock Nelson banged home a power-play goal 47 seconds later. The Islanders carried that late momentum into the third period, as Clutterbuck deflected an Aaron Ness point shot past Jonas Gustavsson.
The Islanders clung to the one-goal lead until the final 43 seconds of regulation, when Pavel Datsyuk scored the second of his two goals to force overtime. The goal didn’t faze the Islanders, who outshot the Red Wings 6-1 in the sudden-death session.
“I thought they played inspired, with a lot of passion and determination in their game tonight,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We battled back against a good hockey team. We utilized our six defense, four lines and both goaltenders.”
Darren Helm rounded out the scoring for the Red Wings with a first period marker and Gustavsson made 37 saves on 41 shots in the loss.
The Islanders hit the road for their next three games, starting in Toronto on Tuesday night. Puck drop from Air Canada Centre is at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Saturday was Military Appreciation Night at Nassau Coliseum… John Tavares had a goal and an assist and is tied for second in league scoring with 25 points (9g/16a)… Casey Cizikas scored for the second straight game… Aaron Ness picked up his first NHL assist… Andrew MacDonald led all players with 30:07 TOI and led the Islanders with four blocked shots.
60 Kevin Poulin
Red Wings Lines:
40 Henrik Zetterberg - 13 Pavel Datsyuk - 44 Todd Bertuzzi
93 Johan Franzen - 43 Darren Helm - 21 Tomas Tatar
71 Danny Cleary - 18 Joakim Andersson - 37 Mikael Samuelsson
20 Drew Miller - 41 Luke Glendening - 8 Justin Abdelkader
55 Niklas Kronwell - 52 Jonathan Ericsson
27 Kyle Quincey - 65 Danny DeKeyser
4 Jakub Kindl - 23 Brian Lashoff
50 Jonas Gustavsson
35 Jimmy Howard