Red Wings leave Jimmy Howard 'out to dry,' get clobbered by Islanders 8-2
Uniondale, N.Y. — Nothing went right for the Red Wings, and the score reflected that.
The New York Islanders jumped all over goaltender Jimmy Howard and a Red Wings team that didn’t appear to be ready early — and didn’t help their struggling goalie out — and it led the Islanders to an 8-2 victory Tuesday.
The eight goals allowed were a season high, a collection of defensive misplays, fluky bounces, and bad breaks.
“When you don’t start on time you put yourself in a tough spot,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We never really came out of it.”
It was a dreadful evening, and one of the hardest hits was to the veteran Howard, who is going through a painfully difficult season.
Howard, the beleaguered Red Wings' goalie, only stopped four of seven shots in the first period before being replaced by Calvin Pickard.
But don’t hang this one on Howard. The defense in front of him — or lack thereof — was egregious and costly.
“We left Jimmy hanging out to dry a little bit,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I met with him (Monday) and I said we have to make sure we’re good enough in front of you to help you get this thing rolling in the right direction – and we weren’t good enough in front of him.
“It was a goalie pull, nothing to do with him, it was anything to quell the momentum and in the end it didn’t work.”
Howard’s teammates put the blame solely on themselves.
“We didn’t help Howie out,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “We haven’t been good in front of him. Too many point-blank chances. We haven’t been good enough in front of him. We need to play a great game in front of him to get him a win and get his confidence going.”
Howard lost his 17th decision in 19 games (2-16-1) and his statistics are scary (4.26 goals-against average, .876 save percentage). But Abdelkader agrees the Wings have to do a better job defensively.
“Tonight, obviously, was not him, it was on us,” Abdelkader said. “We didn’t play well in front of him and we didn’t give him a chance.”
Filip Hronek and Givani Smith (first NHL goal) scored for the Wings.
The Wings are an NHL-worst 12-32-3.
“Some guys were really ready to go and some guys weren’t ready to go well enough,” Blashill said. “You have to compete at a high level and we have some guys who are in some prime spots who have to understand how hard you have to compete every night.”
Brock Nelson had two goals while Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Noah Dobson, Anthony Beauvillier and Leo Komarov also scored for the Islanders (28-13-4).
Eberle scored the game's first goal at 3:23, taking a pass from Mathew Barzal just inside the zone, getting behind the Wings' defense, and sliding a backhander through Howard.
Sure enough, it didn't take long for the Islanders to get the next one.
The Islanders put together another strong shift, and this time it was Bailey knocking in his ninth goal with Howard sprawling after making an initial stop on Tom Kuhnhackl in tight.
Howard left after the Islanders' third goal, at 7:56 of the first period, Nelson's first of two goals.
Mike Green went to play the puck behind the net and fell. The Islanders got possession of the puck, Beauvillier got it behind the net and fed Nelson alone in front to make it 3-0.
“It was not the start we were looking for,” Larkin said. “We didn’t help Howie at all, and in a building like this, it’s a momentum building, and we knew it we talked about it before the game, we knew we’d have to have a good start — and we didn’t.”