With just nine games in January and two over the last week -- that would've been 10 and three, respectively, if snow hadn't canceled Saturday's appointment with the Flyers -- the Isles finish the month 4-4-1 and in third place in the Metro as the break arrives, though New Jersey has a chance to leapfrog them Tuesday night against the Penguins.
That leaves the Isles with games in hand, but also a very busy final stretch of the season. They'll have a run of 13 games in 27 days in February, plus 16 games in 31 days of March (including three back-to-back sets), and somewhere in the next two and a half months they'll need to fit in the makeup game against the Flyers.
You Feel Shame, You Make Up for It
The Islanders' best chances at taking the lead came in the first period, first with an early power play and then on an Anders Lee breakaway where Lee tried to wait out Petr Mrazek to go five hole but Mrazek wouldn't bite.
Oh, but about the former: The Wings power play had been struggling, while the Islanders penalty kill was on another one of their consecutive-kill streaks. So naturally, in accordance with hockey god jinx theory, soon after the Islanders power play failed, the Red Wings converted on their first opportunity. Power play specialist Brad Richards, who hadn't scored on the power play yet as a Wing, was the beneficiary of the right bounce.
But Brock Nelson, who was in the box for that Richards goal, made amends with yet another sizzling wristshot goal from the high slot with 3:27 left in the first period. It was Nelson's team-leading 19th of the season, but it was the Isles' only goal until the waning minutes of the game.
With the score 1-1 at the first intermission, the Red Wings had the much better of play in the second period and were rewarded with the two goals that made the difference. It started with a very suffocating penalty kill after Mike Green took a silly penalty late int he first.
You Do Bad Things
Anyway, the Wings goals: An inexcusable turnover and lazy backcheck by the John Tavares line led to a three-on-two where Justin Abdelkader converted the pass from Henrik Zetterberg at 13:29 of the second. Just over a minute later, a Brian Strait pass through the neutral zone was picked off as Danny DeKeyser read the play at his blueline, stepped in front of his check, intercepted, took the puck into the zone, shot through Strait, then banged in the rebound for an outstanding unassisted goal.
Two plays that weren't due to a possession advantage, but were karmic reward for how well the Wings played the period. They reached the second intermission with a 3-1 lead.
You Try To Undo Your Bad Things, Too Little Too Late
In the third period and amid some line-blendering by Jack Capuano -- and perhaps with some knowledge that the Wings have struggled holding third-period leads -- the Isles were mostly better. But it also could've gotten worse: Jaroslav Halak had to stop Darren Helm on a breakaway after Nelson lost the puck.
Regardless, the Wings were disciplined in protecting their two-goal lead. The Isles couldn't break through until there were just under five minutes left, Mikhail Grabovski scoring on a breakaway after the Isles caught the Wings napping: Strait to Matt Martin at the left wing boards in the Isles zone, and then a Grabovski catapult between two Wings and through the neutral zone. Not at all how you drew it up, but just what you need to break through some disciplined "chip and chase (and change)."
With the game now again within reach, the Isles continued pressing and threatening, and forcing Detroit icings as the visitors lacked a timeout. Mrazek had to come up big several times, and the Isles had to fight in the corners just to make those opportunities possible. But after an icing where the Isles went ahead and used their timeout, the Wings put the game away on a set play from the faceoff. Darren Helm sprinted down the ice to negate another icing and fed Luke Glendening as both eluded all of the rested-but-spent Islanders who remained on the ice.
They petered out. The deserving team won. The Isles can't enter the break thinking they've fixed the general funk that afflicted them most of this season.
Mayfield Returned to Bridgeport
In a bit of All-Star break roster management, the Isles announced after the game that Scott Mayfield was returned to Bridgeport. The Sound Tigers have two more games this week before the AHL All-Star game.