NEW YORK — The Detroit Red Wings have been nearly unbeatable on the road this month, and they got another big win heading into the All-Star break.
Brad Richards scored in the first period, Petr Mrazek stopped 27 shots and Detroit improved to 7-1 away from Joe Louis Arena this month. They have lost four straight (0-3-1) at home dating back to a 5-2 defeat to Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve.
“If we weren’t 7-1, who knows where we’d be,” Richard said. “A lot of urgency, a lot of realization we had that good schedule going into Christmas, that we’re going to have to come out of that on the other side and put together a good effort on the road. We’ve done that.”
Luke Glendening added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal Detroit’s third win in the last 11 meetings (3-6-2) against the Islanders. The Red Wings got their second win in five games (2-2-1) overall and moved into second place in the Atlantic Division.
“I can’t really pinpoint one aspect of something that we’re doing different,” DeKeyser said. “We’re just playing well on the road right now and we got to pick it up at home.”
“They are a good team — they are skilled and fast,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “They are deceptive up front and their goaltender played very well. I thought we had some good chances we couldn’t capitalize on.”
Both teams were playing for the last time before the All-Star Game this weekend in Nashville, Tennessee.
With the score tied 1-1 in the second, Abdelkader put the Red Wings ahead with 6:31 left in the period. Dylan Larkin brought the puck across the blue line and passed it across to Henrik Zetterberg, who sent it to Abdelkader. He sent a slap shot from the right side past Halak for his 14th of the season.
DeKeyser made it 3-1 with 5:20 left when he got the rebound of his initial shot and wristed it past Halak for his sixth goal.
Grabovski pulled New York within one when he skated down the middle on a breakaway and wristed the puck into the top right corner with 4:48 remaining in regulation.
Coupled with the Rangers’ win over Buffalo, the Islanders dropped three points behind their crosstown rivals for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
“We want to play with that consistency,” New York’s Matt Martin said. “Hopefully we can find our game in the last 30-some odd games heading into the playoffs. … It’s a tight race but we have to play more consistency. The way we’ve played haven’t been consistent enough.”
Richards got Detroit on the scoreboard first with a power-play goal about 30 seconds after Nelson was sent off for hooking 19-year-old rookie Larkin. Darren Helm was battling Travis Hamonic for the puck behind the net when Nikolay Kulemin came over and tried to clear it. Instead, it went to Richards, and he whacked the bouncing puck past Halak with just over 9 minutes left in the opening period. It was Richards’ fifth of the season.
Nelson tied it for the Islanders about 5 1/2 minutes later. John Tavares got control of a loose puck near the left boards in the offensive zone, skated toward the net and sent a pass across to Nelson, who sent a slap shot past Mrazek for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.
Nelson has five goals and an assist in his last five games.
NOTES: The Red Wings recalled F Travis Tangradi and D Nick Jensen from Grand Rapids of the AHL during the weekend, and assigned F Joakim Andersson to the Griffins. Jensen, D Niklas Kronwall and LW Teemu Pulkkinen were scratched for this game. … Richards’ goal was just the fifth power-play goal the Islanders allowed in 77 chances over the last 25 games. New York had killed off all 22 penalties over its previous six games. … Nelson is one goal away from matching his career high set last year in his second season in the NHL. He is also three points away from reaching 100 for his career. … New York scratched RW Steve Bernier, D Scott Mayfield. … The Islanders are still without D Johnny Boychuk, who hasn’t played since Dec.31 due to an upper-body injury.