Detroit Red Wings respond after gut-punch losses on, off the ice; ‘we showed up and battled’

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Red Wings needed to redeem themselves, needed to show they have a modicum of self respect.

Their Saturday game against the Florida Panthers at Little Caesars Arena came less than 24 hours after a season low-point on the ice and a heartbreaking event off the ice.

So file it as a character win: The Wings played hard, got terrific goaltending from Jonathan Bernier, scoring from depth guys — and celebrated a 2-1 final.

“I’m very proud of our guys,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “Man to man we all stepped up and we all played a way better game. We brought it.

“We care. We care about being Detroit Red Wings. We care about playing the right way. We showed up and we battled. It feels pretty good.”

The Panthers took advantage of the Wings’ lackluster effort Friday to deliver a 7-2 rout, acknowledged by the Wings as a terrible outing.

After the game, the Wings announced their longtime masseur, Sergei Tchekmarev, passed away Friday. He was 65.

Bernier played the last two periods of that game and started Saturday. He was beaten on a power play when his teammates failed to cover a guy in the slot, and had little chance on that play.

Patrik Nemeth broke Sergei Bobrovsky midway through the second period, firing a shot top shelf to tie the game.

The Wings grabbed that momentum booster and turned in several good shifts, moving the puck around in the offensive zone. Newcomer Mathias Brome earned his first NHL point late in the second period when he drove to the net and tapped in Larkin’s rebound.

Larkin went to the locker room after an awkward collision with Aleksander Barkov midway through the third period, but returned to the bench and was able to help the Wings withstand a last attack after Bobrovsky went to the bench for an extra attacker.

The victory bumped the Wings to 5-12-3. They’re at the bottom of the Central Division, but for a team that had gone through an emotional 24 hours, Saturday was a welcomed reinforcement.

“I really like our team,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I like the group. We don’t want to come out and lay an egg like we did the other night. They have a really short memory, which has been good for us. We’ve had a couple tough nights and that happens sometimes. But we want to compete for each other, we want to grind for each other and we want to work for each other. Ultimately, that’s what is special about teams, and I think we have a really good group of guys. We haven’t won certainly as much as we want, but I think when we’ve had our full lineup, we’ve played pretty good.”

The Wings host Nashville for a pair of games next week — at which point they might be healthier.

Meager lineup choices

Troy Stecher missed the game with a lower-body injury. With Vladislav Namestnikov (undisclosed injury) and Sam Gagner (healthy) also out, the Wings played 11 forwards and seven defensemen, even though Evgeny Svechnikov was available. It speaks to how the depth has been wiped out (Tyler Bertuzzi has been out since Jan. 30 with an upper-body injury) that Darren Helm was moved onto Larkin’s line with Anthony Mantha. Filip Zadina was moved onto Robby Fabbri’s line with Bobby Ryan. Luke Glendening centered Brome and Adam Erne, with Frans Nielsen and Valtteri Filppula as extras. Erne subbed onto the second power play unit, serving as a net-front presence.


Why Jeff Blashill “really likes” the Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, Feb. 20, 2021.

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

Sloppy coverage

Danny DeKeyser, who has struggled to come back from major back surgery in Dec. 20189, played for the first time since Jan. 31. He was called for hooking midway through the first period and the Panthers punished the Wings for poor coverage. Anthony Duclair passed the puck to Alexander Wennberg, who was left uncovered in the slot. Wennberg when to the top of the crease and stickhandled the puck to his forehand — still undefended — and beat Bernier.

Honoring a beloved friend

The Wings held a moment of silence before the game to honor Sergei Tchekmarev, the longtime team masseur who passed away Friday. He was 65. Tchekmarev joined the Wings in 1998, and quickly became a locker room favorite with his ready smile and easygoing personality. The tribute made note of Tchekmarev’s work with the Red Army team and described him as “beloved by generations of Red Wings players.”

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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