UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Merely getting to overtime Saturday qualified as a victory for the New York Islanders. Now they hope getting rewarded with a win in the shootout pays dividends down the road for one of the NHL's most promising yet inconsistent young teams.
Islanders center Frans Nielsen scored on the first shot of the shootout and goaltender Kevin Poulin stopped all three shots he faced to lift the Islanders to a wild 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Nassau Coliseum.
"I'm thinking you know what? Guys deserve this. Just try to find a way to win this in the skills competition," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "And we did. There would be too many good things in this game that we did to show the guys on how we need to play, even if we lost the game."
The Islanders eked out the win on a night in which they lost starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov less than five minutes into the game and came back from a pair of one-goal deficits to lead for most of the third period, during which they outshot the Red Wings 15-4.
But the Islanders, who have blown a lead in seven of their 13 losses, appeared set up to suffer another heartbreaking defeat when Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk capped a furious scrum in front of the Islanders' net by poking a rebound past Poulin with 42.4 seconds left.
The Islanders then had all the serious chances in overtime, when they outshot the Red Wings 6-1 and missed numerous point-blank opportunities, including one by center John Tavares in the final five seconds.
But Nielsen's goal in the shootout and a coming-of-age performance by Poulin in his second-ever shootout appearance -- and his first since Jan. 11, 2011 -- provided the Islanders a victory they badly needed following a 3-2 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday in which they squandered a two-goal lead during a passive third period.
"(Whether) things went our way or not -- (when) we had some mistakes or miscues -- we just seemed to put it behind us and just get ready for the next shift," said Tavares, who scored the Islanders' first goal. "It seemed against L.A. the other day, the third period, we just kind of kept feeling the pressure and the heat more and more and we just sat back and let them come at us.
"We just kept going. It's good to get rewarded for that."
The win kept the Islanders (8-10-3) afloat in what is shaping up to be a wild Metropolitan Division race. With 19 points, the Islanders are tied with New Jersey for fifth one point behind the Rangers and Carolina. They are just five points behind first-place Pittsburgh -- but also only four points ahead of last-place Columbus.
"I thought they played inspired, I thought they played with a lot of passion and determination and commitment to their game tonight," Capuano said. "It's good for the guys to get the win. I'm glad we got the two points."
The Islanders also likely found a new goaltender in Poulin, who made 16 saves in regulation and overtime. Nabokov suffered a groin injury on the only shot he faced -- a goal by Red Wings center Darren Helm -- and had to be helped off the ice. Capuano said Nabokov would undergo further testing on Monday but that he expected the 38-year-old starter to be out for multiple weeks.
"(As) a backup goalie you have to be ready for anything," Poulin said. "I had to jump in there and make the saves."
Centers Casey Cizikas and Brock Nelson scored during a wild 80-second span in the second -- a flurry that included a goal in the middle by Red Wings center Johan Franzen -- before center Pierre-Marc Bouchard gave the Islanders a 4-3 lead 4:43 into the third.
Losing in overtime has become astoundingly familiar to the Red Wings (9-5-7), who have dropped six in a row, including the last five in overtime or the shootout.
"It's pretty obvious we've got to win in regulation, because the shootouts are killing us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It's like anything in life: It gets in your head a little bit."
The one-point losses are adding up in a good way, though, for the Red Wings, who moved into a three-way tie for second in the Atlantic Division with their latest shootout defeat.
"For me these extra points -- the standings could be a lot different if we won all these games, especially shootouts," Babcock said.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson made 37 saves for the Red Wings.
NOTES: G Evgeni Nabokov's previous shortest start came on Nov. 7, 2011, when he allowed three goals on 12 shots and lasted just 14:08 for the Islanders against Boston. ... The game Saturday was the first of three in a 38-day span between the Islanders and Red Wings, who haven't played each other more than once in a season since 2002-03. The Islanders host the Red Wings again on Nov. 29 before visiting Detroit on Dec. 23. The two teams played just six times in the previous eight years, counting the lockout-canceled 2004-05 season. ... The Islanders scratched LWs Eric Boulton and Thomas Vanek and D Radek Martinek. Vanek missed his fourth straight game with an upper body injury but participated in the morning skate Saturday as well as Thursday, when the Islanders lost to the Kings. ... The Red Wings' lone scratch was RW Daniel Alfredsson, who sat out his second straight game with a strained groin. Alfredsson, who was injured during warm-ups prior to Friday's game against Washington, participated in the Red Wings' morning skate on Saturday. ... To replace Alfredsson on the active roster, the Red Wings recalled C Luke Glendening from Grand Rapids.