The Islanders made it five wins in a row against one of the NHL's elite teams by outlasting the Red Wings 5-4 in a shootout Saturday night. The Islanders saw a 4-3 lead disappear when Pavel Datsyuk scored his second goal of the game with 42.5 seconds left in regulation, then failed to convert on a power play in overtime.
But Frans Nielsen scored in the first round of the shootout and Kevin Poulin, who entered the game when Evgeni Nabokov was injured 4:12 into the first period, stopped all three Detroit shooters. He ended the game by getting a glove on Todd Bertuzzi's backhander after denying Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
Detroit is winless in six straight games (0-1-5).
"We do a lot of shootouts in practice and I felt really comfortable," Poulin said.
New York is 6-0-1 against the Red Wings since 2005.
"The last games we've played here, they've been dominating," Zetterberg said. "Today was a good game for us."
Islanders captain John Tavares feels there’s something about playing Detroit that brings out the best in his team.
"You play against a team like this, a veteran team with a lot of talent that has proven itself in what they've been able to accomplish in the last number of years, you want to step up, you want to play well," Tavares told NHL.com. "It's going to take a full team effort.
"It just seems like we understand that focus, the full attention to detail, doing the little things. We know we can't take any shifts off and that we have to be at our best because of the talent they have. As a team, we seem to have that focus against these guys, and it's always a lot of fun playing Original Six teams."
The Islanders appeared to be on their way to a regulation victory when they grabbed a 4-3 lead 4:43 into the third period on Cal Clutterbuck's deflection of Aaron Ness' point shot. New York dominated the rest of the period until the Red Wings pulled goaltender Jonas Gustavsson with over a minute to play.
Detroit kept the puck in the zone, and Datsyuk tied it when his backhander hit an Islander in front of the net and trickled past Poulin. That sent the Red Wings past regulation for the fifth game in a row – and for the fifth time, they had to settle for a single point.
"If we hadn't gone through the last five-six games, this point would be pretty good," Zetterberg said. "Right now it's tough; we can't find a way to win a game. I think we battled hard tonight. It was a back-to-back game and we found a way to come back at the end. Overall, I think it's a good point, but we were right there to get two points."
They had to settle for one, and a sixth consecutive loss overall, because Nielsen, one of the NHL's aces in the shootout, used his favorite backhand deke to beat Gustavsson.
"I knew exactly what I wanted to do," he said.
The Islanders have had trouble holding third-period leads at home this season. They saw a 2-0 advantage against the Los Angeles Kings turn into a 3-2 loss on Thursday because they tried to nurse the lead rather than remaining aggressive. Nielsen said that was not the case against the Red Wings.
"When we got the lead, I actually liked the way we played," he said. "We got a tough bounce at the end [of regulation] when they tied it up, but it was a big improvement from the third period against L.A."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano was especially happy with the way his players didn't get down on themselves after the Red Wings forced overtime.
“I thought they played inspired, with a lot of passion and determination in their game tonight,” Capuano said. “We battled back against a good hockey team. We utilized our six defense, four lines and both goaltenders.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock would have liked the extra point, but had no complaints with his team's performance in the second half of a back-to-back; Detroit lost 4-3 to the Washington Capitals in a shootout at home Friday night.
"It was a real good point for our team," he said. "It's back-to-back nights, they're waiting for us. We got in at two in the morning.
"We found a way to get a point. We obviously have to get better. We will get better. It's pretty obvious we've got to win in regulation because the shootout is killing us."
Tavares, Casey Cizikas and Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders. Poulin made 19 saves after coming on in relief when Nabokov left with a groin injury. Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Nabokov will be re-evaluated Monday, but is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks.
The Islanders opened the scoring 4:03 into the game when Josh Bailey picked off a clearing attempt at the left point and threw the puck toward the net, where an unchecked Tavares tipped it home for his ninth of the season. The assist was Bailey's first point in 11 games.
The Red Wings needed all of nine seconds to tie the game. Helm led a 2-on-0 break into the New York zone and snapped a shot from the slot past Nabokov for his second of the season. It was the first shot faced by Nabokov, and the last.
The Islanders’ League-worst penalty-kill failed them again late in the period. Detroit capitalized on its first power play to take the lead when Mikael Samuelsson's soft wrister from the right point got through traffic before being tipped into the net by Datsyuk for his 10th goal of the season.
After neither team generated a lot of offense for most of the second period, there were three goals scored in a span of 80 seconds, sending the teams off the ice after 40 minutes tied 3-3.
The Islanders tied it at 17:50 on a broken play. Travis Hamonic's clearing pass hit a Red Wing and deflected to Matt Martin, triggering a 2-on-1 break. Martin fed Colin McDonald, whose chip was stopped by Gustavsson. But Cizikas followed the play and put the puck into a wide-open net for his second of the season. He has goals in back-to-back games.
Once again, the Red Wings answered quickly. Helm picked off a pass near his own blue line, raced into the New York zone and dished to Franzen. He waited for Helm to create traffic, moved to the high slot and ripped a wrister past Poulin for his fifth goal of the season and third in two nights.
"It was good that we bounced back twice when they scored, and that it was the same line that did it," Zetterberg said.
The Islanders had generated nothing but boos on their first two power plays, but their third opportunity produced the tying goal. With rookie Luke Glendening off for a needless trip of defenseman Andrew MacDonald, Tavares' shot from the right circle ping-ponged off traffic in front and came to Nelson, who stuffed the loose puck into the net with 49.5 seconds left in the period for his third of the season.
The Red Wings were again without forward Daniel Alfredsson, who was scratched with a groin injury sustained during warmups against the Washington Capitals on Friday. Glendening took his spot in the lineup.