The New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings both returned East after successful western trips.
Only the host Islanders brought their game back with them.
Rob Schremp posted his first two-goal game in the NHL, and Dwayne Roloson earned perhaps the easiest shutout of his career in New York’s 6-0 victory over the lifeless Red Wings on Tuesday night.
“Normally we come back from the West, we get home at 7 in the morning and two days later you play at home in front of your crowd and you look like that,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Thank God that was on the road. Hopefully not too many people were watching television.”
Not even hot goalie Jimmy Howard, who earned three wins out West before the Red Wings reached Long Island to conclude a five-game trip, could bail out the defending Western Conference champions. Detroit is below the playoff cutoff and is in danger of missing the post-season for the first time since 1990.
Babcock said this game worried him back in the summer when he first saw the schedule. Islanders counterpart Scott Gordon called it his team’s “most complete game.”
New York went 2-1 on its most recent trip, earning wins at Colorado and Phoenix. The Islanders beat the Coyotes in a shootout on Saturday after blowing a three-goal, third-period lead.
“We’re all striving to get 60 minutes,” Gordon said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. This was by far our best 60-minute performance.”
And it came against a high-quality opponent, even if the Red Wings (23-16-6) have struggled this season.
Matt Moulson scored 1:11 in, and Schremp made it 2-0 before the first period ended. A blatant giveaway in front by defenceman Brad Stuart set up Schremp for his second, and Mark Streit beat Howard’s replacement, Chris Osgood, during a late second-period power play to push the lead to 4-0.
Kyle Okposo scored his 10th goal 9:22 into the third, and defenceman Bruno Gervais closed the onslaught with 3:08 remaining to make it 6-0 for the Islanders, who have won four of five.
Roloson needed to make only 16 saves for his first shutout in 81 games. He has 24 in the NHL.
“I didn’t know their schedule. I just knew we were playing the Detroit Red Wings,” Streit said. “I don’t really care if they’re tired or not, they’re still a great team. We had to bring our ‘A’ game.
“It’s kind of a mindset. When you play the Detroit Red Wings, you need to come out sharp, because if not it’s going to be a long night.”
The surprisingly offensively challenged Red Wings were shut out for fifth time in 16 games and recorded a season low in shots. Detroit is still without stars Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom in a season that has been full of injuries.
“You can’t win hockey games playing like that,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’ve been there before with many trips to the West Coast … we should be able to put up a better effort than we did. There are no excuses. We weren’t good enough.”
An octopus hit the ice in the Islanders zone during the second period when New York held a 13-2 shots edge. But unlike at playoff time in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, this was not a night for the Red Wings to celebrate. Islanders fans cheered when an Ice Girl shovelled up the octopus and carried it off the ice.
Schremp entered with only three career goals, but he has posted four goals and four assists in his past six games.
Howard stayed in for 1:11 after Schremp’s second goal until Osgood mercifully replaced him. Howard received little help in his ninth straight start. He had allowed a total of 13 goals in the previous eight, and hadn’t given up more than three since yielding four to Edmonton on Dec. 3.
The Islanders had a 20-8 shots lead when Osgood took over, and 26-9 through 40 minutes.
Moulson provided an early sign that the Red Wings were in for a tough night, when he was left unmarked in front and easily redirected Streit’s feed from behind the net for his 17th goal. Schremp’s snap shot from the slot doubled the lead with 4:17 left in the first.
The Red Wings’ most embarrassing moment came when Stuart tried to pass the puck in front of his net to defence partner Derek Meech, but he flubbed it. It dribbled right to Schremp, who shifted from forehand to backhand and slipped a shot at 8:07 of the second.
Streit scored with 1:41 left in the period.
NOTES: LW Ville Leino returned to the lineup in place of LW Brad May, who has sat out two of three. … The Islanders are 7-1-2 when Okposo scores a goal. … Roloson’s previous shutout was Dec. 13, 2008, against Vancouver. … New York won 2-0 at Detroit in the only meeting between the teams last season. … Islanders LW Sean Bergenheim returned after missing 16 games (rib).