Rest in peace, Thomas Greiss’ perfect record at Madison Square Garden.
The Red Wings struggled to gain offensive zone time all game long against the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, falling 4-0 on the road in the first half of a matinee back-to-back.
Entering Saturday, Greiss was 4-0 lifetime in games at Madison Square Garden with a career .931 save percentage against the Rangers. He was in net for a 3-2 shootout win at MSG on Feb. 17 (37 saves).
But as the old adage goes, you can’t win if you can’t score, and the Red Wings (29-36-10) were never all that close to doing any of that, getting outshot 37-20 with limited high-danger chances.
“We defended a lot, so when we got the puck, we were tired. We were just chipping it in and trying to get a change,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “It’s hard to generate offense, hard to build momentum playing like that.”
Alexis Lafrenière, the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft (three spots ahead of Red Wings rookie Lucas Raymond), scored twice in the third period, his first career multi-goal game.
Igor Shesterkin picked up his fifth shutout win of the season, Mika Zibanejad had a goal and an assist and Frank Vatrano also scored for the Rangers (49-21-6).
“We didn’t seem to have enough jump all game,” Blashill said. “We didn’t have much jump. They had good jump. We defended alright through large parts of it but we just defended so much.”
Greiss was asked to be sharp immediately — and he delivered early on, stopping nine shots in the opening 12 minutes, 48 seconds.
“I thought Greiss was really good, especially early. He made some big saves,” Larkin said.
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That dominant opening stretch for New York came to a head when Greiss put a puck over the glass, giving the Rangers a power play. Sam Gagner followed suit with a delay-of-game penalty of his own, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 for 1:30 as the Rangers ended the scoreless tie.
Zibanejad cashed in for New York with 6:16 left in the period; he received a pass from Artemi Panarin and blasted the one-timer past Greiss for his 28th goal of the season. The Rangers entered Saturday with the league’s fifth-best power play (25.5%).
“It never helps to take two over-the-glass penalties in the first period. It kind of got the crowd going a little bit,” Blashill said. “I thought the building was great, they had a lot of energy off it.”
In the first period, Detroit was outshot 17-3 and took three penalties total.
Vatrano put the Rangers up 2-0 at 3:46 in the second. Vatrano received a pass from Zibanejad as he entered the zone, and ripped a shot past Greiss from the top of the circle for his seventh goal in 16 games.
The Red Wings got their feet moving toward the end of the second. A holding penalty on Moritz Seider wound up garnering a short-handed rush for Larkin that was ended before the chance could become too dangerous, but a few more looks during the penalty kill seemed to help Detroit pick up some momentum before the end of the period.
Lafrenière poured salt in the wound in the third period with a shot on the rush that beat Greiss at the 4:37 mark and a highlight-reel goal at 14:17. On the first, Seider pinched in the neutral zone, allowing Lafrenière to come in for the shot 2-on-1 after receiving a pass from Filip Chytil.
Blashill said that his team got impatient on the second and third goals.
“(We were) still in the hockey game, even though we weren’t generating a lot. If you can keep it at 1-0 longer, you’re in the hockey game. If you can keep it at 2-0, you’re in the hockey game,” Blashill said.
“I just thought we got impatient, turned pucks over. Next thing you know, they’re in our net.”
And on Lafrenière’s second goal, he dangled around Larkin before roofing a backhand shot on Greiss, who was too far out of position to make a save.
The Red Wings will finish off the weekend back-to-back at home against the Eastern Conference-leading Florida Panthers (53-15-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.