St. Louis — They’re one team at Little Caesars Arena, competitive and winning hockey games, but the Red Wings are another one away from their home rink.
The Wings lost for the ninth time in 13 games (4-8-1) Thursday away from LCA, losing 6-2 to the St. Louis Blues.
The Wings (13-11-3) had good stretches of play in this game, they controlled most of the second period, but couldn’t get enough going offensively against a short-handed Blues lineup.
Box Score: Blues 6, Red Wings 2
“It’s another tough one, tough start by us digging ourselves a hole like last game,” said forward Robby Fabbri, who scored both Wings goals. “It’s tough to come out of. We didn’t play horribly. We gave up some things, but we worked and sustained some pressure in the offensive zone.
“We just didn’t get enough bodies at the net.”
Fabbri, returning to play in St. Louis for the first time since being traded to the Wings early in the 2019-20 season, supplied all the offense, with Lucas Raymond earning assists on both goals.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 15-of-18 shots before being replaced by Thomas Greiss to begin the third period.
Nedeljkovic had breaks go against him, but it was in all, an evening the Blues capitalized more than the Wings did.
“We started real good and it was one of those nights through two periods where the puck went in for them and didn’t go in for us,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We certainly had as many opportunities, if not more. They were harder at the net and had a better net presence.
“You look at their goals, they did a good job at the net.”
Pummeled with COVID-19 protocol issues and key injuries – along with salary cap issues – the Blues (14-8-4) were playing essentially their fourth-string goaltender (Charlie Lindgren), and several call-ups.
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One of those recalled players, Nathan Walker scored the three St. Louis goals in his first NHL game this season. Colton Parayko had the other St. Louis goal, while Dakota Joshua (Dearborn) and Torey Krug (Livonia/Michigan State) each had two assists.
Lindgren made 30 saves to earn the victory.
“He (Lindgren) was seeing a lot of the shots, it made it easy for him,” Fabbri said. “We have to have the same urgency and compete level that we start the second and third periods on the road. When you dig yourselves a hole on the road, it’s tough to come out of, especially in buildings like this one where they feed off their home crowd.”
The Blues opened the scoring with Walker getting his first goal at 6:17.
Walker’s snap shot from the top of the circle grazed the stick of Danny DeKeyser and handcuffed Nedeljkovic for a 1-0 Blues lead.
Walker, just recalled the day before, quickly made it 2-0 at 16:47.
Walker received a pass along the boards, took a couple strides just outside the hashmarks, and beat Nedeljkovic, who appeared to be screened by Joshua.
Fabbri cut the lead to 2-1 with his seventh goal, in the second period.
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Raymond settled the puck off a rush and left it for Fabbri, who whistled a shot high over Lindgren at 4:17 of the second period.
“A win would have felt a lot better in this building, against that team,” said Fabbri of his successful return to St. Louis. “We’ll get another shot at it next year and try to win in this building.”
The Wings carried the play for much of the middle period, and killed a Blues power play to gain more momentum.
But Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola got a shot through the slot that glanced off Joshua battling in front of Nedeljkovic. Parayko pinched in and batted the loose puck into the net.
“For me, it was one of those nights where the puck seemed to go in, and not necessarily anyone’s fault though we had breakdowns, but when we had puck possession and they had breakdowns it didn’t go in and for them, it did,” Blashill said.
Walker, redirecting a Krug shot from the slot, and Ivan Barbashev scored 44 seconds midway in the third period to put the game away.
Marco Scandella ended the Blues’ scoring with an empty net goal.
“We carried the play through good stretches of the second and moments of the third but we couldn’t find ways to create good enough chances, because not enough net presence,” Blashill said. “When they had opportunities it went in.
“We definitely maintained offensive zone possession to create more than we created through two periods. We do need to have better net presence.”