With seven straight homes losses, rivals gaining ground and only a few games remaining in the season, the Islanders' "no panic" mantra wasn't fooling anyone. They needed a win, if not to remind themselves of how good they are but to quiet the growing noise from outside.
The Red Wings were coming off a 3-0 win over Tampa and looking to gain some momentum after their own meandering March.
The game could not have begun any worse for one desperate team, with failed clears leading to two bouncing pucks getting past Jaroslav Halak in the first 1:46. But less than four minutes later, all was even again as the Isles used a power play goal and a fat rebound from Petr Mrazek to tie it at 2-2 before the game was six minutes old. It was 3-3 before the first period's halfway mark.
The the puck continued to bounce on the Coliseum ice in heart-stopping ways, there were no more goals for the rest of the first period. Then things picked right backup in the second.
It was a weird afternoon, man. But the Islanders will take it.
Several of the Things in the First
Tomas Tatar opened scoring 39 seconds in after the Isles failed to get the puck out from high in the zone. Danny DeKeyser put a shot on through a mild screen, which Halak fielded up high to his stick side, where he thought he had it squeezed against his shoulder. He didn't, however, and that movement took him out of the crease, and on the opposite side Tatar was able to pounce on the bouncing puck through Nick Leddy's stick slash.
Then it got worse.
With the Isles pressed behind their own net. Drew Miller whacked at a shot that hit Halak, popped up in the air, and dropped into the net behind him.
Then it got slightly sane.
Less than 30 seconds after the Wings made it 2-0, the Isles received a power play when Darren Helm was called for hooking Lubomir Visnovsky. With the power play almost expired, Brock Nelson converted on a shot from the high slot to get one back. The Isles kept pressing, and Ryan Strome tied it when following up a fat rebound by Mrazek to make it 2-2 and return some calm to the building.
Then it got weird.
On another power play, the Isles generated several good looks before John Tavares finally just blasted a shot at the net with Anders Lee and Kyle Okposo both on top of the crease. It went off Kyle Okposo's skate and in, surviving replay review.
With a 3-2 lead, had the better version of the 2014-15 Isles finally returned?
No. The lead lasted 52 seconds. After one more failed clear up the boards, Niklas Kronwall tied it after jumping into the slot on a nifty backhand pass from Pavel Dastyuk of The Magic Hands People. The Wings pressed and looked like they might take the lead back when they drew a hooking penalty on Casey Cizikas, but the Isles did well in aggressively killing that one off -- creating some offensive looks of their own as the penalty expired.
More Chaos in the Second
The scoreboard quiet that marked the last 10 minutes of the first did not continue past the intermission. With the Isles on a carry-over power play, Frans Nielsen beat Mrazek on a bad angle shot 16 seconds into the second period to retake the lead, 4-3. Nielsen's goal gave Tavares three assists in the game to pull him (temporarily) to one point behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead.
That bumped Mrazek from the game and brought Jimmy Howard in from the backup goalie aisle at the Coliseum.
When Brian Strait took a hooking penalty for invading Gustav Nyquist's person three minutes in, it was easy to think, "Well, yeah here's where the Wings tie it."
Instead, the chaos resumed in a different way, with an Isles shorthanded goal to make it 5-3: Off an offensive zone faceoff, Tatar stumbled trying to handle a bouncer at the blueline, Cal Clutterbuck pushed it by him and waited out Howard with a forehand move.
After Nick Leddy went to the box on a call he fervently disputed, another big, bouncing rebound lay for Datsyuk to pop in and make it 5-4, which is how things stood at the second intermission. It was the first time in 30 tries that the Isles had allowed the opponent a power play goal.
The third period was as quiet as the first was crazy, with Detroit registering their first shot on net about halfway through. The Islanders kept their sticks and feet in the way of most Detroit attempts and took advantage of a few turnovers to come out of their shell and get their own shots (each team had five).
Halak was on point, including coming up with a psuedo-two-pad-stack on rushing wrister by Darren Helm and a few others as the Red Wings ramped up the pressure.
It wasn't perfect, but the Islanders earned a much-needed win and can rest a tiny bit more confidently until their next game, Thursday in Columbus.
Let's talk about "The Jacket"
Rick... pic.twitter.com/3K94qBLfKh— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) March 29, 2015
@cultureoflosing he looks like my grandmother's curtains.— Michele Catalano (@inthefade) March 29, 2015
@cultureoflosing Breaking news, former-Islander Rick DiPietro has been arrested for allegedly murdering a sofa and wearing its skin.— Jason Cohen (@jasonjcohen) March 29, 2015
Rick DiPietro showing everyone exactly what "fuck you" money looks like. pic.twitter.com/mS2z2K6Fs7— Matt Johnson (@twoeightnine) March 29, 2015
Praise the Paisley Jesus! pic.twitter.com/gbLgpjM9HY— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) March 29, 2015