NHL-leading Avalanche bury Red Wings at LCA, 5-2

Detroit News

Detroit — The Colorado Avalanche are the best team in the NHL in terms of points and win percentage.

They looked the part Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena in a 5-2 victory over the Red Wings.

The Avalanche scored on the game’s first shift, and took advantage of the slow-starting Wings, as they raised their record to an NHL-best 37-10-4.

Filip Zadina and Robby Fabbri (power play) had goals for the Red Wings (23-23-6), who played their first game in six days and showed it early on.

“The first period wasn’t our best,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “They’re a heck of a hockey team. We had five days off and there was some rust. We have to find a way to come out more competitive than that.

“We practiced hard the past couple of days, and they’ve played games and games are important. It wasn’t the most favorable schedule but we have to find a way to come out and at least suck up the first 20 minutes and make it harder than we did.”

Maybe the Wings had an inkling this would be a difficult matchup not just because of the Avalanche’s roster.

BOX SCORE: Avalanche 5, Red Wings 2

Colorado was coming off, arguably, one of their worst games of the season in Monday’s 5-1 loss in Boston, so the Wings were facing a talented Avalanche team that was also pretty disappointed with itself.

“They’re good, and they were good early,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They are good in the offensive zone, good on the rush, and even without (Nathan) MacKinnon (who didn’t play because of a minor injury) their record is spectacular actually. But we couldn’t feel our way into this game, we knew they were going to come hard especially coming off a loss.

“We looked a little bit like we’ve been off for a while. We have to fight our way through that in the schedule.”

Gabriel Landeskog (two goal, including an empty net), Tyson Jost, Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin had the Avalanche goals, giving Colorado its 20th victory in the last 24 games (20-2-2).

Nichushkin gave Colorado a 4-1 lead early in the third period, his 14th goal. But Fabbri answered midway in the period with his 14th goal, putting back in his own rebound on the power play, cutting the Avs’ lead to 4-2.

The Wings couldn’t get closer, though, and Landeskog scored his 25th goal into an empty net.

“We need to get back into a groove and build confidence game in and game out,” Larkin said.

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The game didn’t start at all like the Wings probably envisioned. Landeskog put Colorado ahead 1-0 just 1:12 into the game with his 24th goal.

The Avalanche hemmed the Wings in the zone, hung onto the puck, and defenseman Cale Makar made a dazzling move to the net on the ensuing scramble, Landeskog buried a rebound past goaltender Thomas Greiss.

Darren Helm, who returned to Little Caesars Arena as a member of the Avalanche, was in the starting lineup and drew an assist.

The Avalanche pushed the lead to 2-0 on Jost’s sixth goal, jamming a loose puck in front of Greiss at 11:47.

“Our start wasn’t great,” Blashill said. “We didn’t get going until probably two-thirds of the way through the period. We felt we were going to get chances, so certainly it didn’t seem it (the lead) was insurmountable.”

The Wings sliced the lead in half on Zadina’s seventh goal.

Moritz Seider drove down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush, kept the puck and snapped a shot off goaltender Pavel Francouz that went to Zadina trailing. Zadina quickly deposited the rebound at 11:35 of the second period.

Larkin, who was a game-time decision after dealing with an injury suffered during Tuesday’s practice, earned his 200th career assist on Zadina’s goal, then added another on Fabbri’s goal.

But the Avalanche restored the two-goal lead on Kadri’s 22nd goal. Kadri, battling in front of the net, backhanded a loose puck past Greiss at 18:19, giving the Avalanche a 3-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

“They scored goals at times that were poor timing (for the Wings),” Larkin said.

Greiss made 26 saves, getting a second consecutive start for the first time since Dec. 28-31.


Twitter: @tkulfan

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