UNIONDALE , N.Y. -- Judging by what transpired at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday night, one has the right to at least wonder if April 11 will be the last game the New York Islanders play this season.
Because they certainly resembled a playoff team.
Rob Schremp scored twice, Mark Streit and Bruno Gervais each had a goal and an assist, Josh Bailey had two more assists and Dwayne Roloson was asked to stop only 16 shots as the Islanders dominated the Detroit Red Wings in a 6-0 victory, the Isles' fourth in their last five games.
New York also moved above the .500 mark at 20-19-8 and inched closer to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Isles pulled even in points (48) with the Ottawa Senators, who were pummeled in Atlanta, and the Montreal Canadiens, who were idle on Tuesday night. All three teams have played 47 games, but the Senators and Canadiens both have 22 wins, two more than New York.
The Islanders are off until Saturday, when they'll host the Buffalo Sabres in what is likely to be Rick DiPietro's first game on home ice in 13 months.
After finishing last overall in 2008-09, Isles coach Scott Gordon wants to make sure his team knows it's in a playoff race.
"I'd like to believe that all of our players are looking at the standings -- to know where we are and who's winning as close as we do," Gordon said. "In the last two weeks, we've made it a point to post it in the locker room. We had a quiz against the Rangers and Atlanta, how many points each team had and there were a couple of trick questions in there. Guys were on top of it."
New York beat Detroit on Long Island for the first time since Feb. 3, 1999, and improved to 3-0-1 in its last four meetings with the Wings. The last time the Islanders got as many as six goals against Detroit was Jan. 14, 1992, when they beat Detroit 6-2 at the Nassau Coliseum.
"That was probably the most complete game that we've played in all three zones," Gordon said after his team limited the Wings to a season-low 16 shots. "There was a lot of effort coming back into our zone. We're starting to see some low-shot periods because of the job we're doing coming back into our zone, and then the effort in the defensive zone once we get there."
Tuesday marked the end of a five-game road trip for the Red Wings that was mainly played in California. Detroit won three of its first four on the trip, but its game was missing in action on Long Island. The Isles chased goalie Jimmy Howard, a Calder Trophy candidate, who allowed three goals on 20 shots in his ninth straight start. He was replaced in the second period by Chris Osgood.
"No legs whatsoever," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Normally we come back from the West, we get home at 7 in the morning and two days later, you play at home in front of your crowd and you look like that. Thank God that was on the road. Hopefully not too many people were watching television."
The Islanders needed just 71 seconds to get on the scoreboard, as Matt Moulson tallied his 17th goal of the season. It was made possible by Streit, who won the battle for a loose puck behind the Red Wings' net; the Swiss Olympian then dished it out in front to Moulson for the easy tap-in.
Schremp doubled the Isles' lead at 15:43 with his first even-strength goal in the NHL. Schremp, who has been a major contributor to the club in recent weeks after being a healthy scratch for much of the first half, took a cross-ice feed from Bruno Gervais and wristed a shot from the slot past Howard to make it 2-0.
When the horn sounded, the Islanders completed what very well could have been their most impressive period of the season. They outshot the Wings by a 13-7 margin.
"We've been there before with many trips to the West Coast and coming back and playing games," Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We should be able to put up a better effort than we did tonight. There are no excuses. We weren't good enough."
Schremp got his second goal of the night 8:07 into the second period, courtesy of Brad Stuart. The Wings' defenseman whiffed on an outlet pass at the right circle, and Schremp collected the damage and beat Howard on a nifty deke and backhand to give the Isles a 3-0 lead. Howard was replaced by Osgood -- who hadn't appeared in a game since Dec. 20 at Chicago -- just over a minute later.
"It's exciting," Schremp said. "We've been working really hard. We had a good road trip last week. To come home and put up a clutch performance like that for our home fans is a really good feeling."
Streit made it a four-goal game when he scored on the power play at 16:19. After veteran Kirk Maltby was whistled for slashing, Streit took a gorgeous cross-ice feed from Bailey and skated to the top of the left circle before ripping a shot past Osgood for his sixth goal of the season. The Isles outshot the Wings 13-2 in the second period and held a 26-9 advantage through 40 minutes.
"Beating a team like Detroit 6-0 is quite an accomplishment, and I felt, our best game so far," Streit said. "I thought tonight was almost a perfect game."
Kyle Okposo extended his goal-scoring streak to four games 9:22 into the third period. With the teams at even strength, Okposo took a feed from Freddy Meyer and fired a wrist shot from the right circle past Osgood for his 10th goal of the season. Gervais made it 6-0 when he beat Osgood with a slap shot from just inside the point at 16:52 for his first of the season.
Roloson saw a little more action in the third period, when the Wings outshot the Islanders 7-5. But the 40-year-old was never truly tested throughout the evening and earned his first shutout in 81 games.
"Fundamentally and structurally, that was the best game we've played all year. We stayed to our game plan and did the things we had to do to win a hockey game. We capitalized on some chances that we got, and we didn't give them anything. It was one of the best games I've ever seen a team play against Detroit, especially playing in the West for 11 or 12 years."
One that has the Islanders knocking on the door of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for a team that had just 61 points last season, the fewest in the NHL.
"It's a different world than last year," Streit admitted. "I felt even last week (during) the trip out West, playing three good teams and coming out with two wins gave us a confidence boost. You can feel it. When guys make the right plays, they don't want to play too complicated. They want to keep it simple and we make some plays, as well. Right now, it's a good combination."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Matt Moulson (17) ASST: Mark Streit (20), Frans Nielsen (15)|
1 - 0 NYI
|Rob Schremp (4) ASST: Bruno Gervais (8)|
2 - 0 NYI
|Rob Schremp (5) ASST: NONE|
3 - 0 NYI
|PPG - Mark Streit (6) ASST: Josh Bailey (12), Jack Hillen (11)|
4 - 0 NYI
|Kyle Okposo (10) ASST: Freddy Meyer (7), Josh Bailey (13)|
5 - 0 NYI
|Bruno Gervais (1) ASST: Sean Bergenheim (8), Richard Park (11)|
6 - 0 NYI
|Kirk Maltby Slashing against Sean Bergenheim|
|Sean Bergenheim Hooking against Justin Abdelkader|
|Pavel Datsyuk Interference against Kyle Okposo|
|Doug Janik Hi-sticking against Jon Sim|
|Trent Hunter Too many men/ice - bench|
|Andy Sutton Interference against Pavel Datsyuk|