DETROIT — The final was 5-1, which looks like a rout. But the Islanders were perhaps more frustrated by the fact that they were controlling play against the Red Wings in the first period only to come away down two goals and things got away from them after that.
A playoff spot also got away from them on Saturday, with the upstart Devils leapfrogging the Isles by earning a point and the Penguins also edging a point ahead of them with a win. The Islanders, still with three games in hand on New Jersey, two on the Rangers and one on the Penguins, sit in ninth in the East.
“Yeah, frustrating,” Travis Hamonic said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
Tomas Jurco’s goal at 14:25 of the first after a ho-hum defensive zone effort by Brock Nelson’s line could have been overcome as it was only the Wings’ third shot of the game.
But playing four on four in the closing minutes of the first, Wings rookie Dylan Larkin raced through the Isles defense and skittered a pass across the crease. Defenseman Kyle Quincey beat Ryan Strome to the puck and his backhand crawled over Jaroslav Halak, a play that both Strome and Halak needed to make.
Even then, the Isles were still in it and had a four-on-three power play for a minute in the last 1:15 of the first. Jack Capuano had Johnny Boychuk available, back after missing 11 straight games with a shoulder injury, but chose to stick with Marek Zidlicky.
The Isles didn’t get a shot through on Petr Mrazek, the period ended and the Wings chased Halak with two more goals in a 2:38 span of the second. Mike Green scored on a Wings five-on-three at 7:32 and Tomas Tatar skipped through two Islanders to flick a backhand rebound past Halak, prompting Capuano to go with J-F Berube for the remainder of the game.
Thomas Greiss was the odd man out in the Isles’ three-goaltender situation, but Greiss will get the start on Sunday against Edmonton at Barclays Center.
“Our power play needs to be better and our goaltending needs to be better,” Capuano said after Halak allowed four goals on 13 shots. “I thought their guy [Mrazek] was the difference in the game.”
A wacky, 33-minute delay before the start of the third due to the Joe Louis Arena Zamboni catching one of the metal pegs in its gears and dragging it, digging a deep gash in the ice, didn’t have an impact besides prolonging the inevitable.
Larkin and John Tavares traded third-period goals and the Isles raced back to host the Oilers on Sunday, eager to put this one to bed with their packed schedule and the packed Eastern Conference standings.
“This time of year, you take it day by day,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “That’s the only way to approach it. The most important two points are the ones available tomorrow. You take a lesson here and move on.”
“I can’t remember when the standings have been this tight this late in the year,” Hamonic said. “Every game is important and you can’t dwell on these.”