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Detroit — The winless streak continues for the Red Wings and this time they didn't need the shootout to lose.

The rapidly improving New York Islanders took a second-period lead and held on to defeat the Red Wings, 2-1, Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The loss extended the Red Wings' winless streak to five games (0-2-3), and goal scoring remains a problem in those losses.

The Red Wings have scored a grand total of five goals in those five games, a one-goal average that makes it awfully difficult to win.

The victory also continued the Islanders' dominance over the Red Wings. New York is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games against Detroit and has won five consecutive games at Joe Louis Arena dating back to 2003.

"It was a pretty high-level hockey game," coach Mike Babcock said. "I was impressed with their team but I was impressed with a lot of things we did, too.

"We had good chances but we have to hit the net. I liked tonight's game for the opportunity to grow."

There was a loss in the personnel column, also, which could be even more important.

Goalie Jimmy Howard left the game after the first period with what was announced as a lower-body injury.

The Red Wings said in their announcement Howard leaving the game was a precautionary move.

Howard faced nine shots in the period, allowing a goal by Brock Nelson.

Howard was seen momentarily on the bench, but he quickly went back down the hallway to the Red Wings locker room.

"He's hurt," said Babcock, who had no further update on Howard's condition. "The doctorate they gave me was an honorary one, it doesn't count."

Petr Mrazek replaced Howard and stopped 22 of 23 shots.

The Red Wings dropped two points behind Tampa Bay (44-42) in the Atlantic Division. The Red Wings are 17-8-8, while the Islanders (22-10-0, 44 points) moved to within two points of Pittsburgh atop the Metropolitan Division.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for the Red Wings.

Nelson and Anders Lee had Islanders goals.

Lee's goal broke a 1-1 tie in the second period.

On the goal, Mrazek made a nice stop on Nelson breaking in alone after he squirted through the Red Wings defense.

But the puck slid through Mrazek and sat in the crease until Lee stormed through and tapped the puck into the net for his sixth goal at 10 minutes, 41 seconds.

"I thought I had it," Mrazek said. "The guys told me I had it (the puck) right next to my pad and someone put the rebound in. That was a bad luck goal."

Zetterberg opened the scoring in the first period with his sixth goal.

Darren Helm gathered the puck in the corner, spun out, and found Zetterberg near the dot. Zetterberg one-timed the shot past goalie Jaroslav Halak at 8:49 of the first period, ending a 10-game stretch without a goal. (It was Zetterberg's second goal in 21 games.)

But the Islanders tied the game shortly after the Red Wings failed to convert a power play.

Howard made the first save on Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. But Howard couldn't control the rebound and the puck slid into the slot, where Nelson dove and swiped at the puck, which trickled through Howard's pads into the net at 16:03, Nelson's team-leading 14th goal.

"There were some quality chances," Zetterberg said. "Obviously we want more than (18) shots, but of those we had a few real good chances."

Zetterberg insists the Red Wings are unfazed by the recent goal-scoring drought.

"We don't think that way," he said. "We just have to have a good practice day tomorrow and forget about this. Keep doing the good things and change the bad things."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

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