Whatever magic formula the New York Islanders have for beating the Detroit Red Wings, the rest of the NHL wishes they'd share it.
The Islanders improved to 5-0-1 against the Wings since play resumed after the work stoppage by beating the Wings 5-1 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday. New York's first line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo accounted for four goals -- two by Moulson -- as the Islanders played perhaps their best game of the season after losing back-to-back weekend games at Anaheim and Phoenix that dropped them into last place in the Eastern Conference.
"It was a good bounce back after two tough losses," said Tavares, who finished with a goal and two assists for the 14th three-point night of his career. "That game on Saturday [a 5-1 loss at Phoenix] was tough because of the travel. Two days of rest were huge -- I think we came out hungry."
Isles coach Jack Capuano had no answer for his team's mystifying success against the Wings -- the Islanders haven't made the playoffs since 2007, while the Wings have been among the NHL's elite for two decades.
"We approach every game the same, and prepare every game, how we want to play," he said. "I knew going in that we were 4-0-1 [against them], but I'm not a big guy on stats.
"We went to the net, we played positional hockey, we played sound defensive hockey. When you do the little things, you hope you get rewarded. They earned that win tonight."
Michael Grabner also scored for the Islanders (15-19-6), who have won four in a row against Detroit and are the only team that has not lost to the Wings in regulation in the past seven seasons. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 23 shots to earn his 299th NHL victory.
"Nabby was there for us tonight when we needed him," Capuano said. "He gave us a chance to win.
"I thought our [defense] did a good job keeping their big bodies to the outside and let Nabby see the puck."
The Wings played without star center Pavel Datsyuk, who sat with a lower-body injury sustained Sunday when he scored the overtime winner in Chicago. Detroit coach Mike Babcock was denied in his first bid for career victory No. 400 -- and fell to 1-6-2 in nine career games against the Islanders.
Detroit, playing on the road for the third time in four nights, fell to 11-13-0 away from Joe Louis Arena. The Wings go home for their next three games, beginning Thursday against Phoenix.
"I just didn't think we had any energy," Babcock said. "We didn't skate. We didn't execute. We didn't do good things mentally. It just wasn't a good night for us."
Tavares said the Isles knew they were facing a team that might have tired legs.
“We know we have to raise our game and play at our best to compete with them,” he said. “We played them hard, we knew they were playing their third in four nights and tried to jump on them and hopefully wear them out.”
New York dominated play in the opening period, outshooting Detroit 17-8, but couldn't put the puck in the net despite a series of excellent chances until Moulson's power-play pass across the slot for Tavares hit the skate of a Detroit defenseman and slid into the net at 19:07.
The Islanders managed only four shots on Ty Conklin in the second period, but three of them wound up in the net.
Tavares made it 2-0 at 7:31 when he took a pass from Okposo moved into the left circle and picked the top far corner for his 14th of the season, extending his point streak to six games. Tavares returned the favor at 11:10, springing Okposo alone in the slot for a wrister into a wide-open left side for his ninth of the season.
"That line as a whole was real good tonight," Capuano said of the Tavares-Moulson-Okposo trio, which has generated most of the Isles' offense since being put together late last month. "All our lines were good tonight, but they were strong on the puck."
Grabner, who had a pair of excellent chances denied by Conklin in the first period, got even late in the second after darting into a hole to receive Matt Martin's pass. Grabner, a 34-goal scorer as a rookie last season, broke through the defense and beat Conklin over the glove with a wrist shot at 18:32 for his 11th of the season and first in nine games.
The Wings dominated the third period and got an early goal when Justin Abdelkader set up in the slot and tipped Jakub Kindl's shot behind Nabokov at 2:36 -- ending a run of 10 straight goals by the Isles against the Wings at the Coliseum.
The Wings pressed for more, but Valtteri Filppula missed a wide-open net during a Detroit power play a few minutes later and Nabokov denied Danny Cleary's breakaway bid before Moulson got his 20th of the season and second of the game by tipping Mark Streit's shot behind Conklin with 6:03 to play. The assist was the third of the night for Streit.
Conklin, who was in goal for Sunday's win at Chicago, made 25 saves in his second straight start. He got the call in place of Jimmy Howard, who leads the NHL with 24 wins.
"We didn't give Howie a break to give him a break," said Babcock, who added that Howard would be in goal against the Coyotes on Thursday. "We thought Ty would give us a win tonight."
Material from team media was used in this report.