NEW YORK — The Detroit Red Wings again struggled to get out of their zone and this time, good goaltending wasn’t enough of an offset.
Thomas Greiss faced 37 shots Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden as the New York Rangers downed the Wings, 4-0.
The Rangers entered the game with a playoff spot clinched but still have the chase for home-ice advantage to motivate them. The Wings (29-36-10) are trying to finish the season with competitiveness, but they didn’t put on a good performance Saturday as their general manager, Steve Yzerman, watched from the press box. By the time the Wings established a semblance of offence, they trailed 2-0. Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, then scored twice in the third period.
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The Wings had three shots after the first period, five at the midpoint, and 20 at the end.
“We didn’t seem to have enough jump all game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They had good jump. We defended all right through large parts of it but we just defended so much. It never helps to take two over-the-glass penalties in the first period. It got the crowd going. I thought the building was great, they had a lot of energy off it. But you’re 2-0 through large parts of the game.”
The Wings play again Sunday, hosting the Florida Panthers in another matinee.
Shelled in net
Tyler Bertuzzi lost the puck and Chris Kreider turned it into a scoring opportunity, forcing a save from Greiss. That was just one of many rushes Greiss faced in a first period that recalled the Wings’ inability to generate offensive-zone time Thursday at Carolina. In that game, Alex Nedeljkovic faced a comparatively reasonable 11 shots in the first, but Saturday, the Rangers shelled Greiss with 17 shots on net. One of the few the Wings directed at Igor Shesterkin was a tip-in attempt by Filip Zadina.
“Greiss gave us a chance, for sure,” Blashill said. “He was really good. He’s played real solid hockey in the last bit.”
Over the glass, into the net
Greiss saw so much of the puck he could be forgiven for mishandling it. He accidentally sent it over the glass at 12:48, putting the Rangers on a power play (with Zadina serving the penalty). Sam Gagner was trying to clear the puck when he sent the puck over the glass, too, landing in the penalty box at 13:19 and sending the Rangers on a 5-on-3. It took less than half a minute for them to convert, with Mika Zibanejad burying a one-timer from Artemi Panarin to reach a career-high 76 points. Zibanejad set up the second goal when he passed the puck to Frank Vatrano, who wired a wrist shot from the slot that went high on Greiss. Midway through the game, shots were 24-5 to the Rangers.
The Wings tried chipping pucks in, but even when they gave chase it went nowhere.
“We’re a young team,” Dylan Larkin said. “We go back for pucks, and we throw them away a lot of times. We don’t talk to our partner. We have to work on communicating and talking our way out of problems. Guys have to learn. They want to make it easy on themselves. We want to be a better hockey team — we have to learn little things like that. It hasn’t come and we struggle with getting out of our zone and getting on the attack and getting shots.”
Blashill countered that “it’s not totally youth because part of it is on some of our guys who have been around. They have to do a better job. It’s talk for sure. It’s just understanding not to force things and if you have plays to make, make them and if you don’t … Ultimately, it’s something we need to learn to become a better hockey team and we haven’t done a good enough job learning that lesson.”
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.