Detroit Red Wings picked apart at Chicago in worst performance of season

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

After playing respectably through their first two series of the season, the Detroit Red Wings were picked apart by an old rival.

They were outperformed for a second straight game Sunday by the Chicago Blackhawks, falling 6-2 at the United Center.

The Wings lost the special teams battle in the first period, gave away the puck on the third goal and blew defensive coverage on the fourth and sixth goals.

Tyler Bertuzzi twice halved the Blackhawks’ lead, but his second power play conversion was answered within a minute when Chicago’s Pius Suter completed a hat trick. Detroit goaltender Jonathan Bernier did not receive nearly enough help from teammates in losing his first game of the season. He was left unaided again with four minutes to play when Philipp Kurashev drove to the net with any defenders.

The Original Six teams have a rivalry that dates back to 1926-27, and spent 31 seasons as division rivals until the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference in 2012-13. They are back in the same division this season because the NHL realigned to facilitate playing during the pandemic. This was the first of three two-game miniseries this season, which the Blackhawks lead 2-0.

COVID-19 rules alter lineup

The Wings were without regulars Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner, Adam Erne and Jon Merrill, who are in COVID-19 protocol. That led to Taro Hirose and Givani Smith appearing in their first games of the season. They started on a line with veteran Frans Nielsen.

Hirose, 24, made a splash after being signed as a free agent out of Michigan State in the spring of 2019, recording a goal and six assists in 10 games. He wasn’t able to build on that success and spent most of last season in the minors, appearing in 26 games with the Wings (7 points). Smith, a second-round pick from 2016, appeared in 21 games last season. Smith is a big (6-foot-2, 210) winger who brings a physical touch and net-front presence.

Bad start

Four of the players in COVID protocol — Fabbri, Zadina, Gagner and Merrill — are part of the power-play teams, but that still leaves enough for one talented unit. The Wings managed just one shot on Kevin Lankinen during an early power play, though. They fell behind 2-0 halfway through the first period when Suter capitalized during a Chicago power play while Luke Glendening served a careless penalty for holding an opponent’s stick. The penalty-killing unit blew two chances to clear the puck, and Suter netted his second of the game.

Take and give

The Wings began the second period with a power play, which grew to a 5-on-3 for 61 seconds. They converted when Dylan Larkin took a pass from Filip Hronek and fired it towards the net, where Bertuzzi came through with a redirect from the right side of the net. Bobby Ryan was waiting for a rebound on the left side.

The Wings had a much better period overall, moving the puck well and getting shots through, but they fell behind by two goals again on a failed attempt by Anthony Mantha to help. Mantha swiped the puck away from Dylan Strome only to send it directly to Connor Murphy, and Jonathan Bernier had no chance on the shot. Mattias Janmark made it 4-1 in the opening minute of the third period when he converted a setup by Patrick Kane, who skated undefended up the left flank with the puck.

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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