The New York Islanders scored three goals on their first five shots, overcoming a two-goal deficit en route to a 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
In the process, the Islanders snapped a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) and a seven-game home winless streak (0-6-1).
“We had been fighting it and that win feels good,” said Ryan Strome, who was one of five Islanders to score Sunday. “Hopefully it’s a building block. We knew we were going to have to win a game like this to get out of this slump. That’s a good one for us, good one for our fans and hopefully we get that mojo back.”
Both teams stormed out of the gate early, as the Red Wings also scored on three of their first five shots, opening up a 2-0 lead on goals by Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller 1:46 into the contest.
“Collectively we had one of those feelings that the 2-0 lead wasn’t going to last whether it took us until the final minute of the third, or right away,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “A couple of guys did a good job stepping up right after that happened, getting some offense going and shooting pucks. Obviously we tied it pretty quick.”
The two-goal hole was the wakeup call the Islanders needed, as the team rattled off three unanswered goals in five minutes to take a 3-2 lead by the 9:02 mark. Brock Nelson put the Islanders on the board with a power-play goal at 4:01, snapping a wrister past Petr Mrazek. Strome tied the score 1:37 later, burying his own rebound after a fake shot and drop pass from John Tavares. Tavares – who finished with a game-high three assists – had a hand in the next goal as well, sending a shot off Kyle Okposo's skate for a power-play goal at 9:02.
“Our power play, it was good to see we got rewarded,” Tavares said, as the team went three-for-four with the man advantage. “We had chances in the last few games, but tonight we buried them.”
Less than a minute later, Niklas Kronwall beat Halak from the slot, notching the game 3-3. In total, the teams combined for six goals on the opening 10 shots.
“Tonight wasn’t the start we wanted to have, but guys responded really well,” Halak said. “Especially in the first period, we kept coming at them. It wasn’t pretty, the win, but we needed these two points. Right now four goals [allowed], it’s not fun to play in these types of games, but for now it doesn’t matter, we needed these two points.”
Mrazek started the second period, but was caught cheating off his post on a sharp-angled shot by Frans Nielsen. Nielsen’s power-play marker – which came 16 seconds into the frame on the Isles’ first shot – ended Mrazek’s night, as he was replaced by Jimmy Howard.
Things didn’t get much easier for Howard, as one of his first tests was a shorthanded breakaway from Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck opened his blade and Howard bit on the fake, before the Islanders winger slid the puck in for the shorthander.
“I was just the beneficiary of a tough bounce on their part, but it was good to get an opportunity to put a puck in the back of the net,” Clutterbuck said.
Again, the Red Wings responded, as Pavel Datsyuk backhanded a rebound past Halak in tight for a power-play goal at 10:20. From then on, the Islanders clamped down defensively, holding the Wings to five shots in the third period. Halak also rebounded from a tough start, coming up with a game-saving two-pad stack on Darren Helm with just over five minutes to play and a toe save on Teemu Pulkkinen with two minutes to go.
“In the third period, we played in control,” Halak said. “We didn’t give them many shots. Overall we played a really strong third period. We have to build on it.”
Halak finished the contest with 21 saves, Howard stopped 15-of-16 while Mrazek surrendered four goals on 11 shots.
Matt Martin also made news Sunday, setting a new NHL single-season hits record with 377. Martin had four hits Sunday.
The Islanders have three days between games, as they head to Columbus Thursday for date with the Blue Jackets. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.