The Detroit Red Wings head into the final week of their season with a victory against a team that has struggled more than they have.
Sunday’s outing against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, was a slow, grinding affair, but the Wings put it away with a pair of late empty-net goals to emerge with a 3-0 victory.
“Both teams are missing key players, so it’s a different game than it would be if both teams were full strength,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “There’s limited offensive firepower. You have to continue to check well, and find your way to a goal, and we did. Overall, I thought we did a pretty good job of playing the right way.”
Alex Nedeljkovic faced just 17 shots. Oskar Sundqvist scored among the Wings’ 22 shots on Andrew Hammond. Tyler Bertuzzi scored into an empty net with 2:09 to play, putting him at 29 goals. Michael Rasmussen followed up with 13 seconds on the clock.
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The Wings lost, 7-2, to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in their final home game of the season, and Nedeljkovic said that still stung Sunday.
“Some things were said in the room,” Nedeljkovic said. “We’ve had too many of those games where we ended up getting blown out, and it was a big game for some guys to rebound and right the ship in some way, myself included. It’s been like that the last few months, and we have to find a way to stop that from happening.
“Every time you put on that uniform, especially the Red Wing wheel, you have to play for pride, and you have to play for yourself, if nothing else. And understand there’s a lot of history behind that jersey, behind that logo. You always hear guys talking about playing for an Original Six team and how different it is, compared to other teams, and you need to take some pride in that. I think these last two games, they’re an opportunity for us to show that and end the season with a good feeling about yourself.”
The Wings (31-39-10) visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday and are back in New Jersey for their season finale Friday.
Sundqvist scored for the fourth time since being acquired from St. Louis at the March 21 trade deadline. Devils forward Andreas Johnsson had the puck deep in his own zone and rather than go up the boards, he attempted to go towards the middle. Bertuzzi and Rasmussen applied pressure, and Johnsson lost the puck. Sundqvist swept in and swiped the puck on net, at 15:48 of the first period.
Defenseman Olli Juolevi got back into the lineup for the first time since March 27. (That was the 11-2 loss at Pittsburgh. Juolevi played 16:47 that day and was the only Wings player besides Sam Gagner to emerge with an even rating.) The Wings claimed the 23-year-old off waivers March 6, adding a defenseman in anticipation of the trade deadline, when they moved blueliners Nick Leddy and Troy Stecher. Sunday was only Juolevi’s sixth game in a Wings uniform. He has struggled to impress and is unlikely to be retained.
The Wings’ defense projects to get a major boost next season with the expected inclusion of 2021 No. 6 overall pick Simon Edvinsson. The 19-year-old signed the standard three-year entry-level contract Sunday. He’s coming off a terrific season in the Swedish Hockey League, where he had 19 points in 44 games for Frölunda HC and was a finalist for SHL rookie of the year. (Fellow Wings prospect William Wallinder, drafted No. 32 overall in 2020, was named Swedish junior player of the year earlier this month, ahead of Edvinsson). Edvinsson may be better off starting his NHL career partnered with a veteran, but down the road, the Wings could have a formidable pairing on defense in the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Edvinsson and 6-4, 197-pound Moritz Seider.
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.