Red Wings blanked 2-0 by Islanders; head into break seven points out of playoffs

Detroit News

Elmont, N.Y. − The Red Wings head into the All-Star break still searching for a lengthy win streak.

The inability to string some victories together is costing the Wings a chance to move up the standings and make a solid playoff push in a rugged and deep Eastern Conference.

And time is slowly slipping away.

The New York Islanders, slumping as they’ve been (only one win in their last 11 games heading into Friday), didn’t prove to be the tonic Friday many fans probably suspected they would be. The Islanders put together just enough offense to defeat the Wings 2-0.

Anders Lee and Brock Nelson had the Islanders’ goals, while goalie Ilya Sorokin stopped 23 shots.

“You know going into this building, playing against these guys, when you’re on the road against them they make it hard,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “They have a big defense, and they have the matchups they want. Sometimes we got sustained pressure, but we just didn’t get the puck past Sorokin.”

The Wings (21-19-8, 50 points) had an opportunity to move past the Islanders (24-22-5, 53 points) in the Eastern Conference standings, but failed while losing their third in the last six games (3-2-1). Detroit is seven points out of the final wild-card berth.

“We’re playing good hockey, we’re just not always finding the results,” forward David Perron said. “A night like tonight, maybe it’s a little harder the way the travel was (the Wings didn’t arrive into their hotels until 3 a.m.), and you want to give the dads (this was the fathers’ trip) something to cheer for, but we couldn’t manage to get the one goal to some more energy.

“We need to start finding results. It’s good to play good hockey but we need results.”

Lee scored at 4 minutes, 44 seconds of the second period, giving the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

BOX SCORE: Islanders 2, Red Wings 0

Nelson intercepted a puck along the boards. Nelson lifted a puck towards goaltender Magnus Hellberg, and Lee, prone on the ice, reached with his stick and deflected the puck past Hellberg for Lee’s 18th goal.

Nelson extended the lead to 2-0 in the third period.

Nelson skated the puck to the high slot and snapped a shot that appeared to surprise Hellberg, who was screened with bodies in front of his crease. It was Nelson’s 19th goal, at 4:31 of the third period, just after an ineffective Red Wings’ power play.

Hellberg, giving Ville Husso a rare night off, stopped 26 shots but dropped his fifth of eight decisions (3-4-1).

Hellberg made several timely stops in the third period to keep the Wings close, but there was no offensive push against Sorokin on the other end.

“He was good,” said coach Derek Lalonde, of Hellberg. “Our goaltending was excellent. We had some breakdowns and he gave us some good opportunity to win a road game.”

Lalonde, like the Wings’ players, was disappointed by the lack of offense.

“I didn’t think we played a bad road game at all,” Lalonde said. “We just couldn’t generate offense, and when we did, Sorokin was there. You certainly take the 28 shots we gave up and the two goals against to give you a chance on the road. But we didn’t do enough offensively.”

Neither team was much of a threat offensively, with premium scoring chances on either side few and far between. Both teams weren’t particularly dangerous on the power play, with the Wings going 0-for-4 and the Islanders not converting on four chances of their own.

The Islanders, for what it’s worth, have now scored on the power play in 26 consecutive attempts.

But the Islanders still play a rugged, tough brand of defense that was prevalent in this game.

“You play teams like that, I know they’re not in a playoff position but you put those guys in the playoffs right now against any team and they’re a tough out,” Perron said. “They’re always tough to play against. We have to find a way to be comfortable in those games too if we want to be part of those 16 teams (that make the playoffs).

“That’s the type of hockey you end up playing more often than not, the heaviness and physicality will keep increasing as we play more meaningful games.”

The Wings are off until Feb. 7 when they host Edmonton. For a team that’s been playing a lot of hockey lately with a lot of travel, it’s one last chance to catch their breath before the final push toward the end of the regular season.

There’s also the March 3 trade deadline slowly approaching. Players want to stay in the race so as to give general manager Steve Yzerman pause about possibly being a seller, again, at the deadline.

“Get rest, refocused and re-energized and come back for a big push before the trade deadline and give Steve something to think about,” said Perron, of the Wings’ aim after the break.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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