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Shaky goaltending thwarts Red Wings in loss

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
The Islanders celebrate Cal Clutterbuck's goal as Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard skates away in the second period.

Uniondale, N.Y. — When will Jonas Gustavsson be available? Can Chris Osgood still suit up?

It wasn't entirely all the goaltending but the lack of saves, particularly from Petr Mrazek early, was a factor again Sunday as the Red Wings lost 5-4 to the New York Islanders.

Mrazek started and was pulled after allowing a poor goal to Frans Nielsen just 16 seconds into the second period. Mrazek allowed four goals (three on the power play) on 11 shots.

Jimmy Howard replaced Mrazek, allowed a goal about four minutes later, but was steady the remainder of the game stopping 15 of 16 shots.

"We're definitely scoring enough goals," Howard said. "Petr and I have to find a way."

One day after shutting out one of the most explosive teams in the NHL (Tampa Bay), Mrazek was alarmingly ineffective.

"That's a good question," said coach Mike Babcock, when asked about Mrazek's inconsistency. "I don't really know. I haven't talked to Pete. Obviously you shut out the one of the best offensive teams in the league and tonight the puck went in on him."

On Nielsen's goal, the Islanders forward skated down the side and lifted an innocent looking shot at Mrazek near the goal line that Mrazek somehow played into the net, while appearing to hug the post.

Babcock quickly pulled Mrazek and replaced him with Howard.

"Short side, I have to be there," said Mrazek of the goal. "I thought I had it but I don't know if it hit a piece of the stick. I should have had that one.

"Yesterday was yesterday and today I let in four goals. When the game is over you have to think about the new game and that's what I did (after shutting out Tampa Bay) and what I'll do after today."

Lack of saves has been a factor for the Red Wings recently but Babcock doesn't believe his team is discouraged.

"The blame game never helped anyone, ever," Babcock said. "We're better off if we just keep grinding and not worrying about that and stay the course. We know we have good structure and a good team and let's just stay the course and look after things."

Tomas Tatar, Drew Miller, Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk (power play) scored for the Red Wings.

With Boston defeating Carolina in overtime, and Ottawa losing, the Red Wings (40-23-12, 92 points) saw their lead over Boston cut to three points while Ottawa remains six points behind in the playoff chase.

The Red Wings host Ottawa on Tuesday and Boston on Thursday.

All the while, the Red Wings are 4-8-1 over their last 13 games.

"We want to win every game and we're not doing that now," Henrik Zetterberg said. "The good thing is we're scoring a lot of goals. But we're letting in too many, too.

"We have to find a better balance and we know we have big games coming up this week and we look forward to them."

Brock Nelson (power play), Ryan Strome, Kyle Okposo (power play), Frans Nielsen (power play) and Cal Clutterbuck (shorthanded) scored for the Islanders (45-27-5, 95 points), who won their first home games this month (0-7-1).

"It's disappointing," Mrazek said. "We know they'd lost so many games here at home in a row and we knew they'd come hard because they need points. (But) we need points and it's disappointing."

Halak and Mrazek allowed six goals on the first 10 shots combined in the game in a wild start that looked part 1980's wide-open hockey, yet a lesson on how not to play goaltender in the NHL as Halak struggled with rebound control.

"It was a different start to the game for sure," Zetterberg said.