After yesterday’s beatdown at the hands of the Penguins, the Red Wings squared off this afternoon with the Devils in New Jersey. In the midst of a gauntlet of a schedule against several of the league’s top teams, the Wings get a bit of a reprieve to close out the season with games against the Devils in two of their last three games. The Devils have had a similarly disappointing season, and are without Jack Hughes for the remainder of the season.
The Wings were hoping for a much better showing than many of their games lately. It would be positive progress if they could even keep the goals against today to less than five. That should be a given for most games but it hasn’t been for this Red Wings club, particularly lately.
It was announced Zadina had his appendix removed and will be out the remainder of the season. With Barber being sent back to the AHL, Hirose remained in the lineup. Andrew Hammond drew the start for the Devils, while Nedeljkovic got the start for Detroit after coming in late to relieve Greiss yesterday afternoon. But if things were to go south, Hellberg was dressed as the backup today and potentially looking at his first NHL action since signing.
Things didn’t start well for Detroit as the Devils hit the post with a shot through traffic only 0:15 into the game, on a shift where New Jersey had Detroit hemmed in. But Detroit woke up after that shift, with Hirose getting a good look from the slot a couple of minutes later followed by a cross ice one timer from Bertuzzi that just missed the mark.
Nedeljkovic made a great save on a Foote shot from between the hash marks after a Detroit turnover along the boards. He challenged the shot well, and didn’t give up a rebound.
With 10:32 to play in the period, Detroit went to the first powerplay of the game when McLeod cross-checked Raymond from behind while he tracked a puck high in the air. Before the powerplay Detroit had gone over 7:00 without a shot. On the man advantage, Detroit, Sundqvist absorbed a large hit along the boards as he tried to gain the zone with possession.
The Red Wings powerplay looked disjointed throughout and they never a got a shot on net through the entire powerplay.
The Devils’ Hamilton had a chance from the slot to Nedeljkovic’s left, when he received a pass from behind the goal line on the opposite side. But he double clutched it and a defender was able to direct the shot to the corner by the time he was able to get the shot off. Moments later Detroit had a chance of their own when Rasmussen and Bertuzzi applied pressure to a Devils defenseman in the offensive corner. Bertuzzi knocked the puck away and Sundqvist was in position to get to it first at the right circle. He quickly snapped the puck on net and beat Hammond with a shot before the goaltender could get set, 1-0 Red Wings.
Gagner ate a tough hit inside the New Jersey zone when he whiffed on a shot attempt and while trying to regain control of it took a hit on the chin and was slow to get up. But he didn’t miss a shift, returning to the game.
The first period was a slow start for both teams, as the shots were only 7-4 in favor of Detroit thanks to a late period flurry. Only a handful of chances either way, with Detroit being the beneficiary of well timed and placed shot from Sundqvist. He tends to always find a way to get to loose pucks in the tough to reach areas in front of the net. It’s a skillset that only a few Wings players possess, like Tyler Bertuzzi. You can see why a player like him was a good addition to the deal with St. Louis that sent Leddy the other way. Yzerman has shown a knack for picking up “spare part” type players and maximizing their abilities in Detroit.
We received news at the first intermission break that Detroit signed Edvinsson to his entry-level deal beginning next season. That’s very welcome news as Wings fans eagerly anticipate his time wearing the winged wheel sooner rather than later.
Detroit came out with some decent gumption to start the middle period. No terrific chances through the first few minutes but a noticeably better effort, to match the end of the first period.
Bertuzzi made a slick pass to Erne on an off the rush chance. He slipped the pass through traffic from the top of the zone to a crashing Erne, who couldn’t quite finish the deke attempt on Hammond. The shots were 4-1 Detroit through the first 5:00.
But after the good start to the period, Detroit took their first penalty of the game when Vrana got called for hooking through the neutral zone. It was a bit of a lazy, or at least unnecessary penalty by Vrana as Detroit had plenty of players in position to handle the rush. On the Devils powerplay, Mercer had a terrific chance when he took a pass in between the hash marks from behind the net, but it was deflected over the glass by a defensive stick that got in the way just in time. But New Jersey failed to generate a scoring chance through the remainder of the powerplay as Detroit returned to even strength.
But it was very short lived, as Vrana immediately took another penalty mere seconds after exiting the box. It was an offensive zone trip as he tried to chase a puck to the corner. The Devils had an extended look with an extra attacker as Detroit scrambled to try and get the whistle. The Devils second powerplay began with 11:00 to play, and it was desperately needed, as they were stuck on a shot total of 6 thus far through the game. But Detroit’s penalty kill continued to thwart the New Jersey powerplay. Through another powerplay, the Devils managed zero shots again, despite a couple of looks late in the powerplay.
Detroit returned to even strength just past the halfway point of the game, echoing shades of the mid 90’s Devils defensive team, at least against this depleted Devils lineup. Detroit had their first chance in awhile when Gagner swatted a Devils pass out of the air in the neutral zone. He quickly upped a pass to Suter to create a 2 on 1 with Suter and Bertuzzi. Suter held for an eternity waiting for a passing lane to open up, but was forced to shoot from in tight, with Hammond making the save and kicking the rebound out high in the zone away from any Red Wing sticks.
Detroit continued to keep the Devils at distance from Nedeljkovic keeping the Devils to just two shots until late in the period. But the trade off was they were not all that dangerous themselves either. But that was probably a welcome change to the coaching staff after Detroit had been shelled plenty of times recently.
But late in the period with just 0:43 to play, Sharangovich threw a puck towards the net from low along the boards, and it deflected off of Bastian’s skate and found a way through Nedeljkovic to even this game up, 1-1.
But Blashill elected to challenge the initial zone entry as offside. It looked to be a worthwhile challenge as Severson made a sloppy drop pass before he had gained the blue line. The replay appeared to be very close as to whether he broke the plane before the puck did, but by the slimmest of margins it was indeed offside, and the goal was reversed. The score remained 1-0 Red Wings.
Despite the late scare, Detroit played a terrific defensive period, giving up a few shots late though. They took a 16-11 shot advantage to the break, in what was a fairly uneventful game thus far for either squad.
Zacha had the first chance in the final period when he hammered a one timer wide of the goal early on. But any early momentum the Devils wanted to get going was killed by a Zacha tripping penalty on Erne moments later with 17:38 to play.
With the powerplay opportunity, Detroit did manage to cycle the puck around a bit but couldn’t work the puck to the dangerous areas. Veleno at one point took a big hit along the boards. In the dying seconds of the powerplay, Suter grabbed a loose puck in front of Hammond, made a quick deke to the backhand and beat the goaltender but the shot hit the post and stayed out. Seconds later as Zacha exited the box, he was hit with a breakaway pass but he sent the shot attempt wide right.
Things started to open after that with the teams exchanging 2 on 1 chances each way, albeit poorly executed ones. Detroit earned another powerplay when Bastian slashed Hronek’s stick as the defenseman raced down the left wing wall. Bastian actually broke his own stick on the play, but took the penalty nevertheless. With 10:12 to play Detroit went to a powerplay to possibly close this one out. Bertuzzi had three consecutive chances at the sides of the goal mouth but all three attempts were either fired wide or couldn’t beat Hammond. But Detroit couldn’t bury one on the powerplay.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Detroit lined up for an offensive zone faceoff. The draw was won back to DeKeyser who floated a shot towards the goal. The shot deflected off Erne and bounced in the net. But New Jersey challenged for goaltender interference as at the same point where Erne’s body deflected the puck, Hammond was attempting to extend his blocker to make the save. The officials reviewed and decided on overturning the goal for interference, leaving the game at 1-0 Detroit.
As the Devils tried to push late in the period to attempt to get on the board and tie the game, Detroit did a really good job of keeping them to the outside and allowed Nedeljkovic to see every shot from distance. With just under 3:00 to play the Devils elected to pull their goaltender. Even with the extra attacker, New Jersey couldn’t find a way to create any chances. After breaking up a zone entry, Sundqvist passed up to Bertuzzi who had a 2 on 1 with Suter developing before sending a shot from outside the blue line into the net, 2-0 Red Wings.
With the goal being scored with 2:09 still to play, the Devils decided to pull the goaltender again with 1:30 to play. After a couple of shot attempts from the Devils, Erne broke up a play in the neutral zone and Rasmussen gathered the loose puck and floated a backhander from the blue line into the empty net, 3-0 Red Wings.
More importantly, Nedeljkovic completed his fourth shutout of the season, with the Devils managing a final tally of only 17 shots to Detroit’s 24 shots.
This was exactly the type of game the doctor ordered for the Wings, a defensively strong effort, making life easy on their goaltender. Props to Nedeljkovic for managing the shutout, one that likely reminded him of his days playing behind the Carolina defense.
Rasmussen, although it was an empty netter, remained productive late in the season. He looks to have found a game that works for him at the NHL level lately. Hopefully he can carry that into next season and become a regular 15-20 goal scoring 3rd line type player, whether that’s at wing ideally, but possibly at center.
Sundqvist has been a fit since coming over from St. Louis. His lone, non-empty net, goal encompasses perfectly what he does. He goes to the hard places in front of the net and tends to find a way more often than not to get his stick on loose pucks. He could be a good find for the bottom six moving forward.
Blashill, for all his shortcomings, remains elite at challenging goals, whether it be for offside or goaltender interference. He got the word early enough from his coaching staff to challenge the razor thin offside by the Devils that would have changed the complexion of this game entirely. Speaking of coaching, the Wings defensive effort today will likely give them a good night’s sleep for the first time in weeks.