The Detroit Red Wings didn’t pull off what they wanted and went into their break on a losing note.
For the second time in a month they came up short against the Los Angeles Kings, who unleashed a barrage against goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena to come away with a 5-3 victory.
The Wings (20-21-6) were outshot, 45-25.
“We weren’t very good the first two periods,” veteran defenseman Marc Staal said. “We were slow and getting beat on one-on-ones and didn’t really have much of a pushback. That was kind of it. We had some chances in the third, we tied it up, but Ned played a pretty outstanding game to keep it as close as it was in the first two.”
Tyler Bertuzzi tied the game midway through the third period when he got a piece of Gustav Lindstrom’s shot from the point. Dylan Larkin picked up his 21st assist on the play. But the momentum didn’t last long: Phillip Danault scored his second of the game by driving the net, scoring on the Kings’ 40th shot. Viktor Arvidsson scored into an empty net with 1:27 to play. Joe Veleno scored his first goal in 18 games with 47 seconds to go, and Adrian Kempe added another empty net goal with 10 seconds to go.
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“I didn’t think our battle level was nearly good enough,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They were harder on sticks, they were stopping on pucks better than us. We had too many guys that had their ‘B’ game — ‘C’ game, maybe — and we can’t afford that.”
The Wings wanted to enter the All-Star break not only feeling good, but having redeemed their Jan. 8 performance in L.A., when they were outshot 27-2 in the first period en route to a 4-0 loss. The Wings scored first this time, with Michael Rasmussen netting his fifth of the season in the first period, but the shots were 11-3 Kings at the time, and it got worse in the second period. Danault drove to the net and flipped a rebound in off Nedeljkovic’s shoulder at 12:47, and Arthur Kaliyev redirected Austin Strand’s shot from the blue line at 18:11. The Kings dominated the second period, turning a 22-8 edge in shots into a 2-1 lead.
Zadina gets going
Filip Zadina picked up his third point in four games, adding to the goal he scored Jan. 28 at Pittsburgh and his assist Monday against Anaheim. Zadina assisted on Rasmussen’s goal, first by backchecking Sean Durzi to minimize a scoring chance on Nedeljkovic. With the play at the other end of the ice, Zadina caught the puck as it ping-ponged near the net and fired a shot that Rasmussen smacked behind Jonathan Quick. Considering how much Zadina struggled in the first half (11 points, minus-16), it’s encouraging to see him be more effective.
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Smith gets up
Gemel Smith made his first appearance since being claimed off waivers Jan. 26 and joining the Wings following a conditioning stint in the minors. Gemel replaced his brother, Givani, in the lineup. Smith centered the fourth line between Joe Veleno and Sam Gagner. Smith inadvertently showed how tough he is right away. He had his head turned when Brendan Lemieux (son of late-1990s Wings villain Claude Lemieux) rammed into him, and he spun around as he fell. Smith got right back up and resumed playing. Smith then bumped Lemieux while skating to the bench in the third period, setting off a fight that ended with Lemieux on the ice. Smith earned an assist on Veleno’s goal. “You saw he’s a high-energy player, good on the forecheck, physical,” Staal said of Smith. “Not afraid to drop them. It was a good first one for him.”
Athanasiou gets back
Wednesday’s game marked the first return to LCA for former Wings draft pick Andreas Athanasiou (No. 110 overall, 2012) since general manager Steve Yzerman traded Athanasiou at the 2020 deadline. Yzerman sent Athanasiou to the Edmonton Oilers for Gagner and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. After the season, the Oilers declined to offer Athanasiou a qualifying contract, and he signed as a free agent with the Kings. Athanasiou was injured when the Wings visited California in early January. He returned Jan. 27 and scored his fourth goal in 14 games. On Wednesday, he logged 14:25 of ice time and finished with a minus-2 rating.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.