The New York Islanders had their lengthy winning streak in Detroit snapped Saturday, as the Isles fell 4-1 to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
The Islanders had won five straight in the Motor City heading into Saturday's matinee, but the Red Wings turned a special-teams advantage into a decisive victory. The Red Wings top-ranked power play scored on two of their first three chances, while also converting mere seconds after the conclusion of another man advantage. The Islanders responded with a power-play goal of their own – from Lubomir Visnovsky – but it was not enough to clip the Wings.
“Special teams won the game for them,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “They have a the top power-play unit in this league. I know they got credit for two… but for me they got three power-play goals and that was the difference in the game.
The Red Wings potent power play struck early, as Tomas Tatar beat Chad Johnson top corner for his team-leading 22nd goal of the season 12 seconds into the man advantage.
“On the first goal we gave up, we had a chance to get the puck out,” Capuano said. “We won a faceoff, we had a chance to get it out, we didn’t and it’s in the back of our net.”
The usually high-scoring, high-flying teams played each other tight through 40 minutes, as the Islanders had 12 shots after two periods, while the Red Wings had 14. Brendan Smith delivered a goal in the final minute of the second period, hammering a one-timer high on Johnson with 46.4 to play for a 2-0 Red Wings lead.
“There was a lot of clutching and grabbing out there today,” John Tavares said. “It was hard to get to the front of the net. We were trying to battle. Some of those things weren’t going our way to get those second and third opportunities.”
The Islanders broke through at the start of the third period, as Visnovsky scored in his return to the lineup. Visnovsky, who was injured on Jan. 4, pinched into the slot, took a pass from Frans Nielsen and snapped the puck past Petr Mrazek.
“In the offensive zone he’s deceptive and has a quick release,” Capuano said of Visnovsky. “He proved that tonight.”
The Islanders were buzzing after the Visnovsky goal, but an offensive-zone penalty changed the course of the momentum. The Red Wings technically didn’t score on the ensuing power play, but with Calvin de Haan having not yet rejoined the play, Jonathan Ericsson’s seeing-eye shot came on a de facto man advantage for a 3-1 lead.
Gustav Nyquist’s power-play goal put the game out of reach with 6:52 to play.
“Special teams hurt us,” Tavares said. “We have to be better on the penalty. The power play has to generate more. That’s a key to the game. It was pretty tight in the final five. We didn’t have enough in those areas, it put us behind the eight ball and eventually we just ran out of time.”
Johnson made 15 saves in the loss, though Capuano said he believed the Islanders goaltender gave them a chance to win. Mrazek made 22 saves in the win.
The Islanders head home for a Tuesday night date with the Florida Panthers. The team will wear throwback “Fisherman” style jerseys for warm-ups. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.