Red Wings snap 3-game skid with 2-1 win against Islanders

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Again, a return to Little Caesars Arena proved to be the cure the Red Wings needed to right all their ills.

Returning home with a three-game losing streak — including two lackluster losses in St. Louis and Colorado — the Wings looked like a different team Tuesday while defeating the New York Islanders, 2-1.

The Wings played a much better defensive game than was evident on the road, and looked like a confident team while back on home ice.

"We played a real good game, a real good hockey game," coach Jeff Blashill said. "They played hard and we played hard and it was a good hockey game.

"We played much better defensively than we did on the road, kind of like we did before we left LCA, we were much better in the defensive zone and offensively we used our speed to get on their defense."

Dylan Larkin scored a power-play goal in the second period, Michael Rasmussen added one in the third period, and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 33 shots including a glove save on Jean-Gabriel Pageau as time expired, as the Wings (14-12-3) continued their dominance at LCA.

Wings' Michael Rasmussen celebrates with teammates after his goal, which ended up being the game winner, in third period of the 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan on December 14, 2021.

The Pageau shot likely wouldn't have counted, but it was a dramatic way to end the game and left nothing to chance.

"We had a loud crowd tonight and it was awesome to play in front of and it was a little tough to hear, but if that buzzer did go off or not before he shot it, that's what you want, you want that energy and excitement they bring," Nedeljkovic said. 

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 2, Islanders 1

Blashill didn't think the goal would've counted but "it was a heck of a glove save."

Nedeljkovic played much better than in his previous two games, but the team defense was significantly better than in those two losses, as well.

"It's usually a combination of both," Blashill said. "For a goalie to play real good, you can't give up big time Grade A chances after Grade A chances. We did a pretty good job in large parts of the game of giving up chances, but chances that were second tier, or shots from outside. When we gave up a chance, he did an excellent job. 

"He was great and our team defense was real good."

Interestingly, Nedeljkovic has an opportunity to face Carolina, the team that traded him to the Wings last summer, Thursday in Raleigh — if the game isn't postponed.

The Hurricanes had a game Tuesday postponed as six players have landed on the COVID protocol list, and it's unclear whether any were false-positive and Thursday's game can be played.

Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic  reaches back to make a save In the second period.

Nedeljkovic is looking forward to facing his former teammates — whenever that'll be.

"Right now we're going to prepare as if we are going to travel and play on Thursday," Nedeljkovic said. "That's all anybody can really do right now. We'll find out (Wednesday) a more definitive answer on whether we'll play or not, and as far as those guys (Hurricanes), I played with them for a while to start to my career and hopefully they're doing well.

"They're sick but they're doing OK and battling and nobody is too ill." 

Blashill is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding Thursday's game.

"We're coming to practice tomorrow morning and planning on going on the road trip," Blashill said. "Until we hear differently, that's what we're going to do."

The Wings are 10-3-2 at LCA, incorporating a true home-ice advantage they haven't had since moving into their new home.

Still, the Islanders did make it interesting near the end.

Anders Lee scored his eighth goal for the Islanders - who had pulled the goaltender - deflecting a point shot, at 17 minutes 27 seconds of the third period, cutting the Wings lead to 2-1.

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The Wings welcomed back forward Tyler Bertuzzi (COVID protocol) and defenseman Gustav Lindstrom (lower body) to the lineup. Bertuzzi didn't get on the scoresheet, but supplied his usual grit and energy.

"When you return one of your better players, it gives your team confidence and we probably needed it coming out of a three-game losing streak," Blashill said. "Tyler looked pretty good for the layoff he had. From that aspect, it was a positive, and certainly a positive to have him back."

With the Wings clinging to a one-goal lead in the final seconds of the second period, Nedeljkovic made a huge 3-on-1 save on Brock Nelson, gathered himself, and saw Robin Salo blast a shot off the post, as the Wings maintained the lead.

"Just being as patient as possible, that's all I can do in those situations, especially with good players on the ice," said Nedeljkovic of his thought process on the odd-man rush. "At the end of the period, it was a huge save and going into the third (period) up 1-0, I'll take it no matter what."

Rasmussen gave the Wings a 2-0 lead at 12:55 of the third period, his third goal.

Adam Erne intercepted an Islander pass attempt through the crease, turned, and fed Rasmussen with an outlet pass. Rasmussen found himself on a 2-on-1 rush, kept the puck, and snapped a shot past goalie Ilya Sorokin.

Larkin's power-play goal, his 11th, gave the Wings a 1-0 lead in the second period.

Moritz Seider faked a move to create a lane and fed Larkin near the top of the slot. Larkin snapped a shot that Sorokin got with his blocker, but the puck deflected through and into the net at 10:32.

Seider and Lucas Raymond, who made a nice play chipping the puck along the boards hounded by two Islanders, drew assists on Larkin's goal.

Wings' Tyler Bertuzzi and Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin look for a loose puck in third period.

Seider's assist gave him 17 for the season, leading all NHL rookies, as he also reached the 20-point plateau, reaching 20 points in the second-fewest games by a rookie defenseman on the Wings, behind only Nicklas Lidstrom (22 games).

Raymond's assist was his 15th, and gave him an NHL-leading 25 points (Raymond also has an NHL-rookie leading 10 goals).

And for good measure, Nedeljkovic competes the Wings' rookie star trio with nine victories (9-6-3), best among rookie goaltenders.

Twitter: @tkulfan