DETROIT - In a game in which the Islanders needed to grind and work, they came up short.
Allowing two more power-play goals and a third goal that came just after a penalty expired, the Islanders were frustrated against another big, difficult opponent from the Atlantic Division.
The 4-1 loss to the Red Wings Saturday wasn't a talent show by Detroit's stars. It was a clutch-and-grab fest that went to the team that clogged the middle of the ice more and capitalized on key turnovers.
None was bigger than Ryan Strome's play up the wall in the third period just as Calvin de Haan's minor was expiring. The pass hit off an official, but it wasn't forceful enough to clear the zone regardless.
Jonathan Ericsson corralled the bouncing puck and sent a floater toward the net that dipped, hit Thomas Hickey's skate, bounced past Chad Johnson, hit the post and went in at 9:21, putting the Isles down by two goals in a game they had fought back to nearly tie a few minutes earlier.
"I thought we played great for the most part -- we held them to under 20 shots in their building," Jack Capuano said. "We had the puck on our sticks twice and just didn't clear it."
The first one was de Haan's failed clear right off the opening faceoff of the first Detroit power play of the game. Danny DeKeyser kept that one in and Tomas Tatar rifled a shot over Johnson's glove at 5:29 of the first, giving the Red Wings a goal on their first shot on net.
It became 2-0 thanks to another misplay, this one Johnny Boychuk's failure to chip a puck away from trouble in the final minute of the second period. That led to Brendan Smith blasting one from an uncovered left point past Johnson with 46.4 seconds left.
Lubomir Visnovsky's power-play goal trimmed the deficit to 2-1 at 5:24 of the third and John Tavares nearly tied it off a scramble near Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek before de Haan was whistled for his penalty.
A late power-play goal by Gustav Nyquist left the Isles 2-for-4 on the penalty kill Saturday and just 8-for-17 (47 percent) in killing off penalties in the last six games.
"I can only speak for myself," Frans Nielsen said, "but I know when I'm out there on the PK, I'm not gripping my stick too tight, worried they're going to score . . . We just have to clear the puck when we have the chance."
The two consecutive losses, to the Bruins and Wings, are not slouchy defeats. Both of those teams are headed for the postseason. But the Islanders' speed has been bottled up in both losses, and they did not figure out a way to grind out goals either night.
"It was tough to get to the front of the net," Tavares said. "Special teams hurt us again. We have to be better on the PK and the power play has to generate more."
Capuano admitted to being "[ticked] off" at a handful of his players who he thought didn't show the proper fight from the opening faceoff. Michael Grabner (9:05) and Nielsen (9:46) had the lowest even-strength ice time and Brock Nelson flubbed a good scoring chance in the second, leaving him goal-less in 10 straight.
"I didn't see the grit and determination from some guys that you need and that we're going to need in the second half here," Capuano said. "We gave them  shots five-on-five. It's not about structure. You want this to be a bit of a wake-up call."