Wings officially eliminated from playoffs: ‘Definitely trending in the right direction’

Detroit News

Detroit — The playoffs officially aren’t a possibility, so the Red Wings marked the occasion Saturday with another loss, although a spirited one it was.

The Wings lost 5-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime, hours after the Washington Capitals’ victory in Pittsburgh mathematically eliminated the Wings from the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.

Jack Roslovic completed a hat trick with his third goal at 3 minutes, 19 seconds of overtime, clinching the Jackets victory.

“None of us want to be in this spot,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of missing the playoffs. “We all want to be a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot.”

Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (28 saves) made a pair of big stops on Gustav Nyquist in overtime, as the Wings killed the fifth Columbus power play in the game.

But Roslovic capped a nice passing play, with Nyquist earning the primary assist against his former team, to win it for the Blue Jackets.

“It was a good third period,” said Dylan Larkin, playing in his 500th NHL game, of the Wings’ rally from a 4-2 third-period deficit. “We did a good job on the penalty kill. We were in the box way too much. We’ve been taking too many penalties lately, we can’t take that many penalties.”

Dylan Larkin cut the lead to 4-3 at 15:35  of the third period with his 31st goal, and Jakub Vrana tied it with his second of the game and 10th of the season 58 seconds later.

BOX SCORE: Blue Jackets 5, Red Wings 4 (OT)

Vrana scored his 10th goal in 16 games since returning from shoulder surgery, snapping a loose puck after a faceoff past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins.

Roslovic and Jason Danforth had scored for Columbus (34-33-6) earlier in the period, giving the Blue Jackets a 4-2 lead.

“We just gave away some goals because we played good enough to create enough chances to score, probably score more than them,” Blashill said. “We had a couple of misplays in the third that ultimately cost us goals.”

Blashill felt the penalty disparity — the Wings only had one power play in the game — was a factor.

“You can’t take as many penalties as we’ve taken and put yourself in that position,” Blashill said.

Vrana and Sam Gagner scored for the Wings in the second period, Gagner scoring his 12th goal and fourth in three games.

The Wings (28-34-10) haven’t won three consecutive games since late November.

After making the playoffs for an astonishing 25 consecutive seasons, the Wings have now been home watching them for six straight seasons.

The Wings were at least thinking playoffs in mid-January, at one juncture only five points from the second and final wild-card spot.

But things gradually derailed. Since Feb. 14, when the Wings began the most difficult stretch of their schedule, they’ve been 6-13-4.

More: Red Wings managing late season injuries

“I was happy with our growth up to that point,” Blashill said of the recent slide. “We had surprised people and played better than people had thought. Since then, we haven’t been as good, haven’t done a good enough job for a multitude of reasons.”

But there was some progress the first several months. Larkin, for one, sees that as something tangible heading into the offseason, and next training camp.

“This year, we went into arenas and games expecting to win,” Larkin said. “It’s disappointing when you don’t, but when go into a building and don’t expect to win (such as two seasons ago, when the Wings bottomed out) it’s a hopeless feeling.

“This year we’ve had enough good players to go into building and expect to win and we came up short.

“But it’s definitely trending in the right direction.”

The Wings’ longest streak of not making the playoffs: seven consecutive years, from 1970-71 to 1976-77.

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ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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