By Stefan Kubus –
DETROIT – Getting booed off the ice after 20 minutes details just how poorly the Detroit Red Wings have played at Joe Louis Arena in the 2013 portion of this season.
The good news is that it was the Red Wings’ last game on home ice until 2014, but performing well at The Joe is an undeniable change the team has to make – a New Year’s resolution if you will.
“You’re getting booed off the ice after the first period in your home building, your last game before Christmas,” Red Wings head coach Babcock said. “To me, that’s a sad state of affairs.”
Led by Evgeni Nabokov’s 23-save shutout, the first of New York’s season, the Islanders defeated Detroit (17-13-9) by a 3-0 score. Kyle Okposo scored the game-winning goal for the Isles (11-20-7).
“The bottom line is, we played catch-up all night long and made it easier on their team,” Babcock said. “I never thought we got into their ‘D’ and were physical like we had been, heavy in the offensive zone.”
Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek unexpectedly got the start, as Jonas Gustavsson was forced to ride the bench with a sore groin.
At 10:57 of the first period, Isles captain John Tavares pulled away from Dan Cleary in the neutral zone on a transition from the Isles’ defensive zone to make it a 2-on-1 with Okposo. Tavares slid a pass over to Okposo who went upstairs on Mrazek to open the scoring and make it 1-0 in favor of the Isles.
The Islanders added an additional two goals in a six-minute span following the Okposo goal – from Michael Grabner and Casey Cizikas – to send the Red Wings to the locker room down 3-0 after 20 minutes.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We were stuck behind the whole game. Sure, we had some good shifts down there eventually, but the first period, when you dig yourself a hole deep like that, it’s tough to come back.”
Mrazek, who said he found out after the morning skate that he was getting the nod in net, credited Nabokov for keeping his team’s offense at bay in the second period.
“We tried in the second period to come back, we had a couple chances. Nabokov played great. We couldn’t get anything in.”
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson played only two minutes in the second period before leaving with an upper-body injury. Babcock said after the game he was taken to a hospital and more information would be available in the next couple of days.
“Knock on wood, hopefully he’s not too bad,” Kronwall said. “He’s a big part of this team.”
In the third frame, forward Riley Sheahan pulled off a great toe-drag move to get past one defender, dished the puck across on a backhand pass to Gustav Nyquist, whose shot rang off the post on the short side. Patrick Eaves also hit the post on a slap shot earlier in the period, but Nyquist’s opportunity was Detroit’s best overall chance of the period and likely of the entire game.
“We had a push in that third period where we hit a couple posts, but in reality, catch-up hockey is losing hockey; we say it all the time,” Babcock said. “You’ve got to start on time and do things well.”
The Red Wings dropped their 16th game at home this season and have the next four days off before taking on the Panthers in Florida on Saturday.