Denver —This short, but difficult road trip wasn’t kind to the Red Wings.
Detroit (13-12-3) lost its third consecutive game, and went winless through the two-game journey to St. Louis and Colorado after Friday’s 7-3 loss to the Avalanche.
In those three losses, they’ve allowed 18 goals while being outscored 18-7.
In both St. Louis and Colorado — as well as in Tuesday’s home loss to Nashville — breakdowns defensively were glaring. In Denver, a poor start (the Wings trailed 3-0 midway through the first period) proved insurmountable.
“They’re a good team, a premier offensive team in this league and that’s not the start you want to have in this building,” Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Detroit gave Colorado too much room to skate and make plays, and got into a track meet that the Avalanche loves.
“They’re a premier offensive team, you give them time and they’ll roll around and make plays,” Larkin said. “You have to find a way to grind out your shift and stay tight and we just got beat on our assignments, and especially early.
“It was a disastrous start and you can’t have that kind of start in this building.”
Vladislav Namestnikov, Joe Veleno and Filip Hronek (power play) had Wings goals.
Thomas Greiss started but was lifted after allowing three goals on seven shots in 10:49. Alex Nedeljkovic — who Greiss replaced the night before in St. Louis — relieved and stopped 36 of 39 shots.
“No goalie is going to be great when you’re giving up that many chances,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
Blashill, also, wasn’t particularly happy about the start Friday, and also didn’t like the way the Wings played defensively.
“The first period, we had a lot of guys play to their ‘C’ game and not their ‘A’ game,” Blashill said. “Obviously it’s a tough team to do that against. They’re going to exploit you. Our guys kept digging in and showed a lot of character. We had chances in the third (period) to at least make it interesting and didn’t score on those chances.
“When we came back from out West (in an earlier four-game winless trip), we needed to get better defensively and we did. This team (Colorado), you’re going to get tested where you’re at defensively as any in the league. We have to get better.”
Andre Burakovsky had two goals, and J.T. Compher, former Red Wing Darren Helm, Nathan MacKinnon, Samuel Girard and Cale Makar (empty net) had goals for the Avalanche (15-7-2).
Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper made 35 saves. He was one of Colorado’s best players, frustrating the Wings with some glittering saves.
Veleno’s goal, his third, cut Colorado’s lead to 3-2 at 3:21 of the second period. But MacKinnon scored 38 seconds later for the Avalanche, and Burakovsky scored 23 seconds thereafter, giving Colorado a 5-2 lead.
“This building is one of the most momentum buildings there is, and they (Avalanche) feed off it,” Larkin said. “You give them time and space and they’re going to make you pay. I’m proud of our guys pushing back, but we have to find a way after 3-2 goal to kill their push and we didn’t.”
Colorado has won 11 of its last 14 games (11-2-1) and scored seven goals for a third consecutive game Friday. It has scored at three or more goals in seven consecutive games.
The Wings briefly lost Lucas Raymond in the second when he collided with Colorado defenseman Kurtis MacDemid and gingerly skated off the ice, favoring his right leg.
Raymond returned for a Wings’ power play late in the second period.
“Those two guys just collided,” Blashill said. “We probably got a little lucky that it wasn’t worse. It could have been worse for sure. I don’t think it’s going to be anything major, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be sore. But it was just a collision and nobody’s fault.”
Blashill also said the Wings expect forward Tyler Bertuzzi to return for Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders at Little Caesars Arena. Bertuzzi missed five games due to COVID-19 protocol.
Blashill wasn’t sure if defenseman Marc Staal, also in protocol, was ready to return Tuesday.
Regardless, there will be an emphasis on defense and getting back to being the tighter unit the Wings were just about two weeks ago.
“You can’t give up the number of chances we gave up,” Blashill said. “We have to grow here and have to get back and take a breath and get better.”