After two of their self-proclaimed better efforts of the season coming out of the All-Star break, the New York Islanders turned up lame in Detroit on Saturday afternoon, allowing a couple of late first-period mistakes to drain the life out of their legs and send them on the way to a Zamboni-delayed and timeout-memorial 5-1 loss to the Red Wings.
Things didn't begin so ugly -- the Islanders actually outshot the Wings 10-5 in the first period -- but they sure spiraled away quickly. The result has the Isles dropping to the danger zone of the five-team Metro playoff/wild card pack, though they have two or three games in hand on most of their peers.
Despite an okay start to the game and decent play that suggested a close contest that could go either way, two lazy or at best fatigued plays had them down 2-0 by the end of the first period.
At 14:25 Josh Bailey lost a battle for the puck in the corner with Grover Nyquist, then appeared too exhausted by that engagement to pick up Tomas Jurco when Nyquist got the puck to him. Brock Nelson had turned to cover down low while Bailey coasted, leaving Jurco unimpeded to beat Jaroslav Halak from the faceoff circle.
Less than four minutes later came another turning point and a mistake that could not be ascribed to fatigue: With Nelson somehow being whistled for a coincidental penalty after Mike Green took post-whistle shots at him (more on that below), the teams went to four-on-four. But off the faceoff in the Detroit zone, the Islanders foursome of John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan were completely unprepared for Dylan Larkin's speed nor the overlapping rush that came with it, and Larkin fed Kyle Quincey for a 2-0 lead as Quincey sneaked past all of them.
In the second period the Isles already looked defeated, but Green's 5-on-3 power play goal made it 3-0 to really finish things. Tomas Tatar's chip-in goal finished Halak -- who sprinted off the ice in disgust -- at 10:20.
More than an hour later, Larkin made it 5-0 before John Tavares broke Petr Mrazek's lazy Saturday shutout bid four minutes into the third.
Intermission Muzak: Ice Damage and Greenery
There were a handful of interesting side stories on this drear afternoon...
Your Execution Has Been Delayed by an Hour
There are few more soul-sucking ways to waste a Saturday afternoon than watching your team get blown out in Detroit, but inserting an hour-long second intermission into the game is definitely one of them.
The Zamboni apparently took a goal peg with it as it resurfaced the ice during the second break, dragging a gash through the slot that by one report dug close to the concrete. That created the need for extensive ice repairs, plus lots of time to allow the repairs to freeze, creating a triple-length intermission. To keep things fair, the refs announced the teams would switch sides halfway through the period.
Already down 4-0, the Isles had to try to keep their legs warm for an extended garbage time end to their afternoon humiliation before heading home to face the Oilers 20 hours later.
Green's Impressive Jedi Mind Control of the Refs
Another interesting side story was how well Mike Green milked the sympathy of the refs. The 4-on-4 situation was created when he jabbed Brock Nelson repeatedly in the face in one of those silly hockey ritual "you're near my goalie so I'm supposed to act really tough now" exchanges, even though Nelson did nothing even remotely aggressive around Mrazek.
Following "I would like a power play out of this" protocol, Nelson turned the other cheek but somehow both Green and he were sent off anyway as the ref acted like he was taking assertive control of the situation. That spelled bad news for the Isles, who for some reason at 4-on-4 are an incompetent match with the Wings.
Green did that maneuver one better with a classic Federov-ian swan dive to help put the game away in the second period. With the Wings already on a power play thanks to Calvin de Haan's penalty, Johnny Boychuk -- in his first game back from injury -- slashed at Green's leg as he carried the puck over the blueline. Boychuk's slash -- which didn't break Green's stride -- was worth a penalty...but so was Green's excellent flop to the ice afterward.
Alas, only Boychuk went to the box, leaving Green on the ice and the 5-on-3 power play to score the goal that effectively broke the Islanders' spirit. just 7:32 into the second period.
A Delayed Payback Timeout?
With two minutes left and the Wings up 5-1, the Wings called timeout. No telling whether it was a tribute to Mike Babcock or the other remaining Wings (Jeff Blashell was an assistant coach at the time) who were there a few seasons back in 2012 when Jack Capuano called timeout late during a blowout win. Certainly that's what Butch Goring and Howie Rose speculated, as did those of us still awake for this part of the game.
Whatever the cause, well played. (Oh, and also, I'm sure this makes Blashell a "bush league coach," if I recall correctly what was said about Capuano by Protectors Of The Game at the time.)
Quote of the Day
"Well, payback is...ah something, as they say."
>>Butch Goring on the timeout