DETROIT – The New York Islanders found a way to spoil the Detroit Red Wings’ three-day Christmas break, Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.
And all it took to do so was a span of six minutes in the first period.
The Islanders, who have the third-worst record in the NHL, scored three goals in that six-minute timeframe and that was all they needed to hand the Wings a 3-0 loss.
“I think disappointing is a real good word,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We talked it prior the game, we’ve had a hard time getting traction. 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.”
The loss drops Detroit’s record to 6-10-6 on home ice.
“The bottom line is we played catchup 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.”
The Wings, who also lost Jonathan Ericsson to an apparent shoulder injury early in the second period, had won two straight prior to Monday.
“As a coach, who’s involved in the preparation process, we dropped the ball and so did the players,” Babcock continued. “This wasn’t a good enough effort. When you’re getting booed off the ice after the first period, in your own building, the last day before Christmas (break), to me that’s a sad state of affairs. We’ll have three days to think about it obviously. We’ll get better at it and we’re going to be better than this because this wasn’t good enough.”
It’s the fourth time this season Detroit has been shut out as well as the Islanders fourth straight win at Joe Louis Arena.
Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner and Casey Cizikas got the Islanders’ goals, while Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves for his 56th career shutout.
“It was horrendous,” Niklas Kronwall said of the Wings’ first period. “I don’t know what happened there. We were a step behind, I thought, the whole game.”
Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey and Daniel Cleary finished a combined minus-7.
“We’re not blaming anybody in here, it’s all of us,” Kronwall said. “It’s not one guy doing something wrong, it’s all of us. We didn’t get the job done. Finally it felt like we knew how to play this game. Tonight, for some reason, we just weren’t there. Our fans deserve a hell of a lot more than this, for ourselves, too.”
Petr Mrazek, who got the start as a precautionary because of a tender groin Jonas Gustavsson felt after the morning skate, made 16 saves.
“It was definitely frustrating when you have a bad first period,” Luke Glendening said. “We didn’t have any enthusiasm. We were pretty flat and it showed on the ice when we went down 3-0 and we couldn’t dig ourselves out of the hole.”
The Islanders are now 7-1-1 in their last nine against the Wings, who shut New York in their last meeting 5-0 on Nov. 29.
“We just weren’t prepared to play,” Glendening said. “We came out flat and not enthusiastically and that’s what happens. If you don’t come out ready to go you can go down quickly. We had two big wins under our belts coming in. It’s a frustrating one to lose, especially right before the three-day break. So hopefully we’ll come back rejuvenated and ready to go.”
The Islanders got on the board first just past the midway point of the first period, taking advantage of untimely pinch in by Smith.
Smith was unable to challenge to hold the puck in the Islanders zone and Thomas Vanek quickly got an outlet pass on the stick of John Tavares for the 2-on-1. Okposo quickly buried the cross-ice pass past Mrazek.
“It’s good to come into this building and get a huge win,” Okposo said. “I think we outplayed them for most of the game. I thought we had an extra gear tonight. They might have come out flat, but we did a good job to beat on them.”
Detroit fell behind 2-0 less than five minutes later after a pass from Josh Bailey deflected off the back of Smith’s stick and right to Grabner, who buried the one-timer.
The Islanders’ first-period onslaught was capped off when Cizikas found a seam in the Wings’ defense down low and took a feed from behind the net from Matt Martin to beat Mrazek cleanly.
The third goal prompted Babcock to use his one timeout of the game with a little over three minutes left in the first period.