DETROIT – It wasn’t for the lack of trying Friday night.
The Red Wings fired 44 shots against the New York Islanders, unfortunately only 18 of those were on net, and just one found the back of it.
“We had hum-dinger chances, right in the slot,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We had some good looks, but we have to hit the net. I didn’t mind tonight’s game. I thought our effect was good.”
But it wasn’t good enough for the Red Wings, who lost 2-1, while running their winless streak to five straight games.
For the 19th time this season, the Red Wings scored first, but they were unable to sustain pressure in the offensive zone after Henrik Zetterberg gave the home crowd something to cheer about at 8:49 of the first period.
An Islanders’ turnover led to the Red Wings’ first goal when Darren Helm out-maneuvered defenseman Thomas Hickey along the half wall before wheeling around to make a perfect pass to Zetterberg inside the right face-off circle. The Wings’ captain wasted no time, unleashing a wicked slap shot on a one-timer that handcuffed goalie Jaroslav Halak.
It was Zetterberg’s first goal in 11 games, and just his second in the past 21.
But the Islanders stormed back, taking a one-goal lead midway through the second period.
“I think in the second we turned the puck over a little bit too much and gave them a little momentum, got them some power-play opportunities,” Zetterberg said. “I think in the third, it's a well-played game. Petr (Mrazek) comes in and plays amazing. So it was good to see that he can come in when he gets the chance to play well. Obviously you want to score more than one goal. Been like this the last few games. Still don't know the answer."
Mrazek entered the game in relief of starter Jimmy Howard, who did not return for the second period. Howard suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in the first period.
Mrazek was spectacular, especially on a point-blank shot by center Brock Nelson on the Islanders’ first power-play opportunity of the game. Mrazek did the splits with his skates touching both posts to make a left leg save on Nelson.
It was a Riley Sheahan turnover that led to the Islanders building a 2-1 edge. Sheahan’s mistake was just one in a calamity of errors for the Red Wings, who failed to take care of the puck and didn’t get enough grind time deep in the Islanders’ zone in the middle frame.
The Red Wings, who have scored a paltry five goals in the past five games, were held to single-digit shots in each period – with six in the first, seven in the second and five in the third – Friday. It certainly didn’t help matters that Detroit missed the net 11 times and had 14 more shot attempts blocked by the Islanders.
“We didn’t do enough to create things,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We didn’t throw enough pucks in there. We’ve had that problem now for two games. We got to get back to doing what we did before. Throw more pucks in there, play a little more desperate and get back to our winning ways.”
With 16:27 left in the third, the Red Wings thought they had tied the score when Gustav Nyquist’s shot beat Halak on the glove side, rang off the far post and ricocheted out through the goalie’s legs. The play was reviewed by the war room in Toronto but the no-goal call on the ice was confirmed.
Still, the Red Wings managed to take some positives from the loss.
“I thought we were good at times,” Babcock said. “The biggest thing for me today was a good growth opportunity. If you didn’t play right you had no chance to win. You turn the puck over and they’re coming right back and fast at you.
“I like tonight’s game for it being a good opportunity to grow.”