For the Detroit Red Wings, three straight losses — all to teams that made the playoffs last season — have reminded them the road to becoming a postseason contender will not be a smooth one.
Next up for the Red Wings are the New York Islanders, who are fresh off consecutive victories that have displayed the pedigree they have built with four trips to the playoffs in the previous five seasons.
The Red Wings will look to halt their losing streak, while the Islanders will aim to win their third straight Monday night, when Detroit visits New York in a battle of Eastern Conference rivals at Elmont, N.Y.
Both teams were off Sunday after playing on the road Saturday night. The Red Wings fell on the road to the Boston Bruins 4-1 and Semyon Varlamov stopped all 34 shots he faced as the Islanders beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-0.
The three-game skid has provided an early reality check for the Red Wings, who opened 5-1-0 after missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season last year. Detroit has been outshot 98-86 during the losing streak.
After squandering a 3-1 third-period lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday, the Red Wings spotted both the Winnipeg Jets and Bruins a 2-0 first-period lead. And as the Jets did on Thursday, Boston responded to Detroit’s lone goal by scoring two unanswered goals in the third period Saturday.
“We know deep down that they’re meaningful games,” said Red Wings center Joe Veleno, who scored in the second period Saturday. “We’ve got to beat the best of the best to be the best. But I don’t know what it was. We just didn’t come out to play today and our effort wasn’t there.”
The Red Wings saw the Bruins go 1-for-4 on the power play. Detroit opponents are 3-for-12 on power play opportunities in the last three games after going 3-for-23 on the man advantage over the first six games.
“Little areas of our game we can manage much better,” Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde said.
The Islanders, whose opening night roster included 19 players who were with the team that fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last spring, endured a discouraging three-game losing streak Oct. 20-24. They were outscored 15-9 by the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche.
But the Islanders began regaining their identity on both sides of the ice Thursday, when Ilya Sorokin made 45 saves in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. Varlamov, making his second start of the season, stopped 16 shots in the third period Saturday while closing out his 39th career shutout.
“There were some close calls, but that’s the way hockey is,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “We really have a ton of confidence when (Varlamov) is in net.”
Two of the Islanders’ five goals over the last two games have been collected by players on the fourth line. Matt Martin iced Saturday’s win with 3:21 left when he put back the rebound of a shot by Casey Cizikas.
“I think everyone from top to bottom contributed,” said Islanders right winger Kyle Palmieri, who scored in the first period. “We grinded it out.”