Detroit Red Wings: Tough to swallow loss at Nashville, but here’s why they’re encouraged

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James | Detroit Free Press

For the many things the Detroit Red Wings did right Thursday, their hard work was undone on a lapse in judgment by a rookie.

The Wings dropped to 3-10-2 with a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, despite showing a good effort and getting terrific performances from Thomas Greiss, Robby Fabbri and Anthony Mantha.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” alternate captain Frans Nielsen said. “I think since the second game down in Tampa, we have been competing really, really hard out there and playing some good hockey, and we haven’t really been getting results. But as tough as it is right now, we have to realize that we are doing the right things out there and keep our heads up and keep going.”

The Wings looked like they were going to get at least a point as the game neared the final minute of regulation. But then the puck rimmed around to Mathias Brome, who was along the right wall. He wasn’t able to corral the puck, and the Predators pounced on it and turned it into a goal.

“It was a tough one,” Dylan Larkin said. “It’s simple hockey — we didn’t get the puck out at our blue line. It was a tough pill to swallow.

“We moved the puck well, we moved our feet, Mo was really good. He was moving his feet and making a lot of plays. We got out of our zone pretty well and we got great goaltending. We were in there. We were right there.”

They Wings play at the Predators again Saturday, then come home for six games. They won twice at Little Caesars Arena.

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The prevailing thought coming from the Wings seems to be that they are doing more things right than their record shows.

“I know we are not getting results, but we are kind of finding our identity, the way we have to work on a daily basis,” Nielsen said. “If we can keep finding ways to do this and play this hard, we are going to get results.”

The Wings did have to play with a short bench after Darren Helm was lost to a lower-body injury. Luke Glendening, the team’s best faceoff guy, missed the game with an upper-body injury, and Tyler Bertuzzi, a top-line player, is also out with an upper-body injury.

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“Once we get Bert back, it adds another key piece to our offense,” Larkin said. “These guys coming back from the COVID list, they are just catching their strides.

“We have to keep growing and we have to find ways to score more goals.”

Fabbri is one of five players who missed two weeks with COVID-19. He scored for the second time in three games. He only had one practice before retuning to the lineup Feb. 3, against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

“I’d say the first couple games, I was probably hard on Robby,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He probably got hit the hardest of the guys who had COVID, he was the sickest and had the longest to recover. It just took a little bit to get his legs back underneath him. But he is playing hard, doing a good job.”

Mantha set up Fabbri’s goal, and was noticeable all game — Mantha played physical, played around the net, and looked dominant. It’s a nice change considering he was made a health scratch Feb. 7.

“I thought he was excellent,” Blashill said. “He won a ton of battles, worked hard, skated hard. Did a lot of great stuff. I think he’s game is coming the right way. That’s a huge bright spot for us, now you get a player who is a big-time player when he’s playing on top of his game.”

Larkin called the way the game ended a “punch in the gut.” But the Predators punch wouldn’t have hurt so much if the Wings got anything from their power play. They had four of them Thursday, and managed just two shots on net. In 15 games, they’ve converted on four of 47 opportunities.

“We care about it a lot,” Larkin said. “We talk about it every day. We have to keep it simple, we have to get set up. We have to figure out a way to get pucks to the net and score dirty goals.”

That may help when Bertuzzi returns — he has three of the man-advantage goals — but Blashill said Bertuzzi hasn’t even begun skating. So the Wings have to figure out how to get over this loss in time for Saturday’s rematch,.

“It’s frustrating for sure,” Blashill said. “I thought we put ourselves in position to win another hockey game, and we didn’t finish it. We have to fight through the frustration. It’s a waste of human emotion. We are going to have to get past that.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. 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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