This time, the New York Islanders had little trouble hanging on to a lead.
Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Casey Cizikas scored in a span of less than six minutes in the first period and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 23 shots to give the Islanders a 3-0 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Monday night.
The Islanders have lost a League-high six games, including two of their past three, when leading by two or more goals. This time, they played solid defense in their own zone and limited the Red Wings' scoring chances. Nabokov was rarely tested on a night when neither team was assessed a penalty until the goaltender was called for tripping with 6:49 remaining.
"I thought tonight we started on time," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We got out of the gate early, and I liked the way we defended. Our gaps were good and we were able to keep their skilled guys to the outside."
The shutout was Nabokov's first of the season and the 56th of his NHL career. He has allowed 10 goals in five games since returning from a lower-body injury suffered against the Red Wings on Nov. 16.
"For us, a win against this type of team is huge," Nabokov said. "That's part of experience. You have to figure out how to win. Hopefully we did that today."
The Islanders won for the fourth straight time at Joe Louis Arena, where they haven't lost since Nov. 28, 2003. Overall, the Islanders are 7-1-1 in their past nine games against Detroit.
The Red Wings had their two-game winning streak ended and fell to 2-5-2 in their past nine games. They have won six of 22 home games this season (6-10-6).
"We've had a hard time getting traction," coach Mike Babcock said. "We had a number of injuries, but began to battle our way back to get some traction and I thought our intensity in the first period wasn't good enough. They scored on their shots and I don’t think we did much. They didn't do much either, but they scored."
Islanders captain John Tavares had a couple of good chances early, then set up the game's first goal. Tavares took a breakout pass from Thomas Vanek, raced into the Detroit zone on a 2-on-1 break and put a perfect pass on Okposo's stick for a shot into a wide-open net at 10:57. It was Okposo's 12th of the season.
It became 2-0 at 15:07 when Josh Bailey's pass from the right half-boards deflected off defenseman Brendan Smith's stick to Grabner in the left circle for a one-timer that beat rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek cleanly. The goal was Grabner's fifth of the season and third in three games; he scored twice on opening night and didn't score again until getting two more on Friday against the New York Rangers.
The Islanders needed less than two minutes to make it 3-0. Colin McDonald won the puck behind the Detroit net and slipped it to Matt Martin. He fed Cizikas coming down the slot for a slam dunk past Mrazek at 16:55.
It was an especially enjoyable night for Martin, a native of nearby Windsor, Ontario.
"There's no better feeling than winning in front of your family and friends," Martin said. "We played a pretty complete game. There were surges back and forth, but we stuck to it, worked hard and found a way to win."
Tavares beat Mrazek but hit the post in the opening seconds of the second period before the Red Wings began to control play. Detroit outshot New York 11-2 in the period and held the Islanders without a shot during the final 19:07, but most of the Red Wings' shots came from the outside. One that didn't was a rebound try by Datsyuk with four minutes remaining on which Nabokov made his best stop of the period.
Nabokov got some help from his net in the early stages of the third period. Patrick Eaves drilled the crossbar with a shot from the right circle just past the five-minute mark, and Gustav Nyquist's shot a minute later hit the goaltender's shoulder before deflecting off the post.
"The bottom line is we played catch-up all night long," Babcock said. "I thought we made it easy on their team. We never got in on their D, we weren't physical like we have been or heavy in the offensive zone. We had a push in the third period when we hit a couple of posts, but reality is, catch-up hockey is losing hockey, we say that all the time. You have to start on time, do things well."
Mrazek, who got the start because Jonas Gustavsson has a sore groin, made 16 saves but had no chance on any of the three shots that beat him.
"We didn't really give him much help," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "What's he going to do? He came up with some big saves for us. We didn't give him a chance."
Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson left the game early in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Ericsson was injured when he delivered body checks to Bailey and Martin. Following the check on Martin along the half-wall in the New York zone, Ericsson skated off favoring his left side.
Babcock said Ericsson was taken to a hospital, but had no other details of the injury.
Material from team media was used in this report.
|Evgeni Nabokov Tripping against Todd Bertuzzi|
|Todd Bertuzzi Hooking against Brian Strait|