Detroit Red Wings take step forward at Dallas: What should comfort fans from OT loss

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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The outcome disappointed, but the Detroit Red Wings’ performance was more to the identity they need to forge as they try to prove they are a competitive team.

The Wings earned a point Tuesday against the Dallas Stars on the strength of playing a tight, grinding game against the Stanley Cup runner-up that ended with a 2-1 loss in overtime. They have to look back more than a week to their last victory, are 2-4-1 on the season, and face the Stars again Thursday at American Airlines Center.

That’s not much of an affirmation, but the way they played in the first game against the Stars was much improved over the stinkers they delivered in Chicago.

“We want to be a tough team to play against,” Vladislav Namestnikov said after scoring his first goal since joining the Wings. “A lot of people don’t believe in us, but in the locker room we believe in each other.

“We weren’t very good in Chicago. It was way too wide open. We talked about it during these days here in Dallas and we wanted to come out and make it hard on them and play a tight defensive game and I thought for 60 minutes we did that.”

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Knowing the Stars were 8-for-12 on the power play coming into the game, the Wings inexcusably still went to the penalty box four times. Thomas Greiss, who has given his teammates a chance to win four starts now but has yet to pick up a victory, stopped 20 shots, five of them on power plays. But all it took was one: Four seconds after Filip Hronek was called for slashing, John Klingberg fired a puck through traffic to make it 1-1. It was one of three penalties in the second period.

“We were actually playing good until we took that Hronek penalty,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Then the momentum went their way. One of our major keys was discipline; obviously their power play is really humming, and we have to do a better job of staying out of the box.”

There wasn’t much going early for either team. Then the Wings took a too-many-men penalty and killed it. Less than a minute later, Namestnikov had some overdue puck luck after being denied on three breakaways early in the season.

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“That was big,” Luke Glendening said. “We knew that their power play had been going at a pretty good clip, so to get that first kill and then to see Vladdy get his first goal for the Wings was big for us. I wish we could have kept it going, but I thought we battled.”

Seeing the puck go in should be good for Namestnikov’s confidence, but it was also encouraging for the two who earned assists. With Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Adam Erne and Jon Merrill in COVID-19 protocol, the Wings have had to rely on their taxi squad. Taro Hirose and Givani Smith were forechecking below the goal line, and their hard work led to the puck bouncing off Miro Heiskanen’s skate and sliding towards Namestnikov.

Namestnikov went to his backhand for a shot eluded Antonin Khudobin.

“I had plenty of opportunity to score but that’s sometimes how hockey goes, they just don’t go in,” Namestnikov said. “Then a goal like that squeaks in. I was glad to get the first one but it would have been nice to get the win.”

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What the Wings can take into their next game against Dallas is sound defensive structure and secondary scoring. What they desperately to add is a functional power play. Four of the guys in pandemic protocol are power play regulars, but the first unit that went on the ice when the Wings got a man advantage with 4:09 to play was Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Bobby Ryan and Hronek. That’s five skilled players, yet not one shot on Khudobin. The patchwork second unit — Namestnikov, Hirose, Rasmussen, Mathias Brome and Christian Djoos —did a better job, testing Khudobin three times.

On the whole, though, there at least were positives for a team that badly needed to feel just a little bit better about themselves.

“We can’t get discouraged,” Namestnikov said. “We played a good game and we have to bring that intensity to the next game.”

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. 


Jeff Blashill on what he liked, didn’t like in Detroit Red Wings 2-1 OT loss at Dallas

Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill interview from Dallas. Jan. 26, 2021.

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

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