Published January 10, 2012
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – John Tavares had a goal and assist in the second period, shortly after being struck in the head with a puck, and Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves as the New York Islanders beat the Detroit Red Wings 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Tavares left the ice hunched over with a towel pressed to the side of his head less than one minute into the second, after a dump-in by Detroit's Niklas Kronwall hit him. He returned to the bench a few minutes later and caused major damage.
First, he took a drop pass from Kyle Okposo and snapped a shot past goalie Ty Conklin at 7:31, and then fed Okposo in the slot for a one-timer 3:39 later to make it 3-0. Michael Grabner added a goal with 1:28 left in the second, a period in which the Islanders scored three goals on four shots.
Matt Moulson started and finished the outburst for the Islanders, 5-0-1 against the Red Wings since the NHL lockout seven years ago. New York is 15-1-7 at home in its last 23 games against Western Conference teams.
Moulson scored with 53 seconds left in the first and added his 20th of the season with 6:03 remaining in the game to push the lead to 5-1, with an assist from Tavares.
That was enough to have fans chanting, "You can't beat us!"
Conklin made 25 saves and likely will be back on the bench Thursday in favor of No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard, who sat for the second straight game. The Red Wings hope leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk will also return to the lineup against Phoenix after sitting out Tuesday because of an undisclosed lower body injury.
The Central Division-leading Red Wings had a lineup with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but again were surprisingly no match for the Islanders, who opened a four-game homestand after a 1-2 trip and began the night in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Nabokov, making his ninth consecutive start, got some assistance as two Red Wings drives struck goal posts, but he was solid in earning his 299th NHL victory. His shutout bid ended 2:36 into the third when Justin Abdelkader's fifth goal made it 4-1.
There is no common theme or explanation for the Islanders' success against the Red Wings, considering New York hasn't been in the playoffs since 2007, and Detroit is a Stanley Cup contender every season. The Islanders improved to 45-44-8 versus the Wings, and haven't lost to them in regulation since a 6-0 defeat on Nov. 28, 2003.
Detroit's 767 wins since the start of the 1997-98 season are the most in the NHL.
The Islanders dominated the first period and finally got a puck past Conklin in the final minute, with some help from the Red Wings. Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart was whistled for roughing after he landed a punch against Moulson, and compounded the problem by slamming his stick against the boards in anger, earning another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
New York cashed in on the first half of the power play when Moulson sent a shot from just above the goal line toward the crease that hit the left skate of defenseman Drew Miller and bounced in. The goal was originally credited to Tavares, who would've had a clean swipe at the puck had it not struck Miller.
The Islanders 17 shots in on Conklin in the first, and Nabokov faced only eight, but one was a brilliant arm save while sprawled in the crease off an in-close shot by Valtteri Filppula with 2:45 left.
NOTES: Datsyuk misses his first game of the season. ... Hockey Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was in attendance. ... Islanders D Mark Streit assisted on Moulson and Grabner's goals. ... Tavares has had an assist in six straight games, with three goals, nine assists and four multipoint games during the run. ... Grabner had gone eight games without a goal. ... The Red Wings, who had won five of seven, completed a 2-2 road trip.