DENVER — The Detroit Red Wings endured a scare to one of their top players and suffered another lopsided loss on the road.
Their attempt at a comeback Friday at Ball Arena was short-lived as the Colorado Avalanche unleashed a flurry that saw both Detroit goalies snowed under. The 7-3 loss dropped the Wings (13-12-3) to 4-9-1 on the road.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted in this building,” Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “They’re a good team. They’re a premier offensive team in this league and that’s not the start you want to have in this building. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Coach Jeff Blashill gambled and pulled his goalie with a little over five minutes to play in regulation and with the Wings on a power play, but Avs defenseman Cale Makar used the empty net for target practice.
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Lucas Raymond missed a chunk of the second period after a collision with Kurtis MacDermid that caused Raymond to fly into the air. He went to the locker room, but returned for a late power play shift.
“We probably got a little bit lucky that it wasn’t worse,” Blashill said. “It could have been worse, for sure. I don’t think it’s going to be anything major. It doesn’t mean he won’t be sore. But it was just a collision. It was nobody’s fault.”
Even at full strength, the Avs were too much for the Wings. They were up 3-0 halfway through the first period: Devon Toews scored on a shot through traffic from just inside the blue line five minutes into the game; Andre Burakovsky followed up with a one-timer two minutes later and Darren Helm scored on a breakaway at 10:49.
That led to Alex Nedeljkovic replacing Thomas Greiss after three goals on seven shots; the night before it was Greiss who replaced Nedeljkovic after he gave up three goals on 18 shots through two periods at St. Louis.
The Wings were well-represented in the stands, and gave those fans something to cheer in the final minute of the first period when Vladislav Namestnikov scored his 100th career goal. Joe Veleno scored early in the second period, but the Avs quickly went back up by a pair of goals, and Samuel Girard made it 6-2 before Filip Hronek scored on a power play late in the second period.
“We had a lot of guys that played more like their C game and not their A game and that’s a tough team to do that against,” Blashill said. “They’re goin to exploit you. I thought our guys kept kind of digging in. They showed lots of character in continuing to grind, certainly didn’t quit. Had chances in the third to at least make it interesting. We didn’t score on those chances.”
Bad blood, you say
The men who were central to the Wings-Avalanche rivalry two decades ago are all retired, and the teams only meet twice a season since the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference in 2013. That said, there’s still lingering animosity. When Moritz Seider checked Logan O’Connor in the first period, Avs players took offense and went after Seider, leading to a melee. Officials called Seider for cross-checking. The Wings killed off the penalty, though, and Seider ended the period picking up an assist on Namestnikov’s goal.
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Breakaway, you say
Helm was a big part of the Wings for more than a decade: He was part of the 2008 Stanley Cup team during his tenure, which spanned 2007-21 and lasted 744 games. When the Wings opted not to bring him back, he signed a one-year deal with the Avalanche. In his heyday in Detroit, teammates used to call him “Danger” because of how fast he could skate. Rarely, though, could his hands keep up — he was known for being unable to convert on breakaways. So it was eye-popping when Helm raced up ice midway through the first period on a breakaway and fired a shot that went into the net. He looked good doing it — but the Wings had to lament that he could do it against them, when he so rarely did it for them.
Momentum, you say
The Wings looked like they were going to make a game of it when Veleno scored 3:21 into the second period, driving to the net from the right flank and angling a puck that slipped five-hole on Darcy Kuemper. But the momentum dissipated in the thin mountain air: Nathan MacKinnon scored at 3:59, and Burakovsky followed 23 seconds later, crushing what hope the Wings had of a comeback.
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.