| Detroit Free Press
Frans Nielsen: Special teams finally went the Detroit Red Wings’ way
Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen, Feb. 27, 2021.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Red Wings boosted their confidence with a well-played outing against an Original Six rival.
Their 5-3 victory Saturday at United Center marked the first time in five meetings this season the Wings beat the Chicago Blackhawks, and the first time the Wings have won consecutive games. With three victories in their last four games, the Wings improved to 7-13-3, enough to leap past the Dallas Stars and out of the bottom spot in the Central Division.
“We talked from day one, we have to win as a team,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We haven’t won enough as a team but we’ve worked as a team and our guys have worked for each other, competed for each other.
“We’ve scored here in the last couple games and it’s been depth of scoring, and that’s what we need.”
TOP-LINE LOSS: Larkin out at least through weekend
The five goals matched the season high scored Thursday. Jonathan Bernier made 33 saves in his fourth straight start, and in a rare instance this season, the Wings also won the special teams battle, limited as it was.
“We scored five goals in back-to-back games, that’s something we’ve struggled with,” alternate captain Frans Nielsen said. “That for sure feels good. And special teams – we’ve been losing that battle a lot this year. It was nice it finally went our way.”
The Wings were without their captain, Dylan Larkin, who did not travel to Chicago after suffering an upper-body injury Thursday. They came out of the first period with a lead thanks in large part to Bernier, who made 14 saves, and to the chemistry between Bobby Ryan and Robby Fabbri, who paired up to provide a 1-0 lead. Fabbri also set up Christian Djoos, who scored on a power play after Darren Helm contributed his first goal of the season in the second period. Djoos’ goal marked the first time the Wings converted on a man advantage in 41 opportunities, dating to Jan. 28.
Nielsen and Evgeny Svechnikov bookended third-period goals around one from Chicago’s Mattias Janmark. Svechnikov, Nielsen, Fabbri and Valtteri Filppula all had two-point nights.
The penalty killers came up big, too, against the NHL’s top-ranked power play, keeping them from getting any shots on net.
The teams play again Sunday.
Svechnikov finds opportunity
The injury to Larkin led to tweaks that provided Svechnikov with his first opportunity of the season. Svechnikov had a breakaway early in the third period but was stopped, but he jammed in Nielsen’s shot at 2:33 of the period.
“It was good to see,” Nielsen said. “He’s such a good kid, comes in every day and works so hard. He deserves everything. I’m so happy for him. Hopefully this is a little breakthrough for him so he can stick around a little bit.”
Svechnikov had been waiting patiently since joining the taxi squad Feb. 16.
“I knew the chance was going to come,” he said. “I was getting ready any minute. It’s always hard, but you have to stay with it. Mentally, I stayed well. It’s hard, but I worked hard.”
The Wings risked losing Svechnikov, their first-round pick in 2015, for nothing when they put him on waivers before the season began.
“That wasn’t in my control, that was their control,” Svechnikov said. “But I am happy that I clear.”
Svechnikov was part of the group of team personnel that attended a private visitation Friday for longtime team masseur Sergei Tchekmarev, who passed away unexpectedly Feb. 19. Blashill described Svechnikov as “really close” Tchekmarev, and said Svechnikov “talked about that after the game. It was a good night for him.”
Ryan finds the net
Ryan contributed his third point in two games midway through the first period. Robby Fabbri put in a hard shift to set up the goal; Nikita Zadorov tried to rub out Fabbri along the boards, but Fabbri refused to be denied space. He strode into open ice and was able to pass the puck to Ryan, who skated past three defenders to beat Malcom Subban in net. That was Ryan’s team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Nielsen finds relief
Nielsen scored for the first time since Feb. 29 of last year. He’s been scratched a couple games and was waived last weekend. “You want to play as much as you can, but I had talks with Blash before the season and he’s been honest with me,” Nielsen said. “I kind of knew I wouldn’t play every game. I’m coming in every day and trying to work as hard as I can and be a great teammate and be positive. Every time you play just go out there and work your best and hopefully it’s good enough to stay in the lineup.” Nielsen has five points in 20 games, and a plus-1 rating.
Wings find momentum
Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) scored at 13:53 of the second period, but the Wings reclaimed momentum within 13 seconds. Luke Glendening, who was having an excellent night on faceoffs, went beneath the goal line to battle for the puck. The Blackhawks had three defenders there, leaving Helm alone in front of their net to score. Djoos made it 3-1 at 18:27, pinching to the slot and faking a shot before beating Subban high on the blocker side. That was Djoos’ second goal of the season, tying Marc Staal for the team lead among defensemen. Both are new to the Wings this season; Staal was a trade acquisition, Djoos was claimed off waivers.
Evgeny Svechnikov was confident chance would come with Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov, Feb. 27, 2021.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.