Making his first start in 17 days following a minor knee injury and facing the team he broke into the NHL with two seasons ago, MacDonald made 42 saves for his first career shutout and the New York Islanders handed the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings a 2-0 defeat on Friday night.
"It's (an) unbelievable feeling now, to get my first NHL shutout in the NHL against my former team," said MacDonald, who played eight games for the Wings in 2006-07. "I had a lot of years here and I know a lot of guys over there pretty well, so to come in here … I thought the boys played really well."
Frans Nielsen scored a shorthanded goal midway through the second period and Josh Bailey added a goal for the Islanders, whose 58 points are last in the League. But they prevented the Red Wings from taking over the Western Conference and President's Trophy leads, and from becoming only the third team to win 50 games in four consecutive seasons.
"Obviously we're not quite in their league yet, because they can make some plays," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "When you look at their lineup and you're wondering how somebody's fourth line can have more than your first line as far as goals, it's amazing that they even get beat. Obviously it took a pretty hard effort and some solid goaltending by us to do it."
MacDonald had to work harder as each period went on. After making nine saves in the first period and 14 more in the second, the Wings tested him 19 times in the third and were turned aside every time. It was the first home shutout against the Wings since Dec. 31, 2007.
"I thought they worked real hard, competed real hard, I thought Joey gave them good goaltending and it took us a while to get started tonight," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Any time you're playing from behind all the time, that's just losing hockey."
At some points MacDonald was fortunate -- Marian Hossa, Valtteri Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk had shots ring off the post or crossbar -- but he was also spectacular. On one Detroit power play, Mikael Samuelsson had a chance at a wide-open net only to have MacDonald deny him with a diving glove save.
"I went down on the initial shot -- I thought he was going to shoot it and he just kind of fed it across," MacDonald said. "I just caught the puck going over and I knew he was just going to shoot it because he had the whole empty net, and lucky enough I just dove across. He kind of put it right in my glove. It was a lucky save, but hey, I'll take it.
"I think after that save the team kind of got boosted. Fransie scored a big goal shorthanded and then Bails scored. I think things like that during a game, a big save or a fight or something like that, it kind of changes the momentum."
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom concurred with MacDonald's theory.
"I think it was huge for their team, to get a save like that, and on our power play, too," Lidstrom said. "If we get a goal there, it could have been a different game. He came up real big on different occasions for them tonight. I'm sure he's really happy about getting it here, against his former team. He had a real solid game. We hit the post, the crossbars a few times, but he made some big-time saves, too."
Doug Weight was in the box for hooking when the Islanders got MacDonald the only goal he would need. Nielsen snuck behind the defense, took a pass from Kyle Okposo, cut in on the right wing and made a move before beating Chris Osgood at 8:41 for his seventh of the season.
Bailey, who played his junior hockey in nearby Windsor and had several family and friends at the game, made it 2-0 with 4:51 left in the second. He rammed his sixth goal of his rookie season into a wide-open net, dunking a pass through the crease by Tim Jackman. The Islanders had lost the faceoff leading up to the goal but worked hard to get the puck back and create the scoring chance, pleasing their coach.
"I try to tell our guys that you've got responsibilities win or loss, and just because we lose a faceoff doesn't mean that we can't get possession of it," Gordon said. "That effort that Tim Jackman had and Josh, not just to retrieve the puck, but Josh to beat Lidstrom back to the net to be able to get that tap-in and then Jacks to outmuscle that guy coming around the post to throw it backdoor to Josh."
The win was actually the Islanders' second in their last two trips to Joe Louis Arena, but the shutout was the franchise's first at Detroit since Jan. 22, 1981, when Billy Smith blanked the Wings 3-0.
"It was a great effort, obviously," said Weight, who returned to the lineup after missing six weeks with a sprained knee ligament. "We had a few goalposts there that they hit and Joey played great, but we played a good period and a half, two periods at the beginning of the game after they took it to us at the beginning. We'll take the win. Some good penalty kills, some great goaltending and we'll take the two points."
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.