The New York Islanders were looking to make a statement after Saturday’s loss in Carolina.
That message came in loud and clear, as the Islanders beat up the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Barclays Center on Monday afternoon.
“I had a lot of faith in our team to bounce back after the game that we had,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought we played three solid periods.”
Capuano touched all the bases, from the team’s intangibles: their energy and compete level, to the nuts and bolts: special teams, goaltending and active sticks.
“It gives you confidence that you can play against good hockey teams,” he said. “All areas of our game: power play, penalty kill, special teams and our structure were good here tonight.”
Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Marek Zidlicky and Ryan Strome scored for the Islanders, while Thomas Greiss recorded 28 saves for his fifth straight win. Nelson and Strome each had a goal and an assist, while Johnny Boychuk (two assists) had his first multi-point game of the season.
“The team played real well,” Greiss said. “It was a big comeback for us after last game, it wasn’t the best. They are important points, especially against that team. It was a big win.”
After a closely contested, but scoreless first period, Nelson opened the scoring in the second. Strome’s pass skipped off a Red Wings stick and floated towards the net, before Nelson batted it out of the air and past Jimmy Howard. Nelson’s goal was his 21st of the season – a career-high – and his 100th career NHL point.
“It’s special,” Nelson said. “It brings you back to the road so far. It’s been three years or so, a lot of memories. Definitely something you’ll remember and hopefully just the start of many more.”
The Islanders padded their lead with two goals 66 seconds apart near the end of the second period. Boychuk’s initial shot was stopped by Howard, but Bailey cleaned up the rebound for his 10th of the season at 14:57. Bailey’s power-play goal marked the sixth straight game the Islanders scored with the man advantage. Zidlicky, who had missed the previous four games, scored shortly after, pinching off the blue line, grabbing a Cal Clutterbuck rebound and sliding the puck past Howard at 16:03.
Clutterbuck was also making his return to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with an illness.
The Red Wings made a push after the Islanders third goal, but Griess held the fort, denying Pavel Datsyuk twice in the closing minutes of the second. First, Greiss denied a Datsyuk slapper from approximately 15 feet and then stopped the lethal vet’s deflection on a Detroit power play. The second save was especially important in that it came in the final minute of the period, ensuring the Islanders finished the second with a three-goal cushion and the accompanying momentum.
Greiss made a big pad save on Xavier Ouellet on a backdoor play to start the third, but Datsyuk ended his shutout bid midway through the period, cashing in on a Gustav Nyquist rebound at 9:31.
That was as close as the Red Wings came, as John Tavares delivered a no-look, behind-the-back pass through two defensemen to Strome, who went top shelf on Howard, putting the Islanders up 4-1.
“He just spun around and threw it,” Strome said. “He knew I was calling. He’s got great vision, it’s not a surprise that he makes those plays.”
The highlight-reel goal effectively clipped the Wings and gave the Islanders their fourth straight win at home. Over that span the Islanders have outscored opponents 22-6. Up next, the division-leading Washington Capitals, who visit Barclays Center on Thursday night.
“It’s a long season, we can’t get too high or too low… but it was a good bounce-back tonight,” Strome said. “It’s good to get back on track before Washington.”
NOTES: Calvin de Haan left Monday’s game with a lower-body injury and did not return for the third period.