Brooklyn – Jimmy Howard is still waiting for the puck to start bouncing his way.
His miserable season continued Monday afternoon in a Presidents Day special at the Barclays Center, as the New York Islanders defeated the Red Wings 4-1.
The Islanders scored three second-period goals, which meant another tough day for Howard, who saw his personal winless streak reach nine games (0-6-3) with the loss. Howard hasn’t won a game since Dec. 3 against Arizona.
“Jimmy played good; he just has to keep focusing on playing good hockey,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He can’t score more goals for us. He has to keep playing as well as he can.”
Howard declined to speak with reporters after the game.
Pavel Datsyuk scored a third-period goal, the lone Red Wings offense a day after exploding for six goals.
Datsyuk – who was named the NHL’s First Star for his hot streak last week – scored his 12th goal and No. 310 of his career, moving him into seventh place among the Red Wings’ career leaders, ahead of Brendan Shanahan (309).
But as red-hot as Datsyuk has been, Howard has been ice cold.
Howard, 31, is struggling through his most difficult season of 10 years with the Red Wings, while Petr Mrazek has clearly assumed the role as the No. 1 goaltender.
This was only Howard’s fourth start since being pulled in the second period Dec. 29 in Winnipeg, with Mrazek starting in the 15 of the 19 games since.
“Jimmy has decided he’s going to keep his head up and keep working hard to get better,” said Blashill of Howard’s approach. “He’s making sure he’s putting himself in the best possible position and he looked extremely prepared.
“It just didn’t go his way.”
Howard’s afternoon began well enough Monday with a spotless first period, stopping all eight Islanders shots, including an early breakaway attempt by star John Tavares.
“He made some key saves, two or three breakaways, he definitely gave us chances to win,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
But Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey (power play) and former Red Wing Marek Zidlicky scored second-period goals.
Howard (7-9-4) didn’t get much help on the Bailey and Zidlicky goals; both were able to roam freely and put back rebounds in front.
“There’s no blame on him (Howard), we have to do a better job defensively sorting things out and clearing rebounds for him,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Howie made some big saves. He kept us in there.”
On Nelson’s goal, which began the rally, Nelson was able to bat down a pass from Ryan Strome then poke a rebound off Howard’s glove for his 21st goal.
Ryan Strome capped the Islanders scoring, converting a slick behind-the-back pass from Tavares shortly after Datsyuk scored.
“You could say four goals isn’t good enough and we all want more saves, including him, but he played good,” Blashill said of Howard. “He gave us chances to win and made some big saves on the breakaway (to Tavares) early in the game.
“It was a big moment, and if we score on some of those opportunities, it could be a different game.”
For the Red Wings, playing their second game in less than 24 hours seemed to have a negative effect. They just didn’t have the necessary spark against a rested, hungry Islanders team.
“Not our best effort,” forward Darren Helm said. “They’re a good team, they played us hard, (being down) 3-0 it’s hard to come back from those types of leads. We needed to be a little more prepared for that game.”
Jimmy Howard is on a nine-game winless streak stretching back to December:
Dec. 8 vs. Washington, L 3-2 (SO), 38 saves on 40 shots.
Dec. 11 vs. New Jersey, L 3-2 (OT), 35 saves on 38 shots
Dec. 18 vs. Vancouver, L 4-3 (SO), 37 saves on 40 shots.
Dec. 22 vs. New Jersey, L 4-3, 3 saves on 6 shots (replaced in first period).
Dec. 29 vs. Winnipeg, L 4-1, 10 saves on 14 shots (replaced in second period).
Jan. 11 vs. Los Angeles, L 4-2, 27 saves on 30 shots.
Jan. 23 vs. Anaheim, L 4-2, 31 saves on 35 shots.
Feb. 4 vs. Florida, L 6-3, 27 saves on 32 shots.
Feb. 15 vs. N.Y. Islanders, L 4-1, 28 saves on 32 shots.