Red Wings display calmness, maturity in pivotal third periods

Detroit News

Newark, N.J. — To say the Red Wings had a quiet confidence about them as they controlled Saturday’s third period in New Jersey might be overstating a bit.

It was only the second game of the season, and the 5-2 victory came against the stumbling and bumbling New Jersey Devils, who contributed to the Wings’ victory as much as anyone.

Then again, it was the Wings who set the tone for the final 20 minutes. They were poised and precise. And unlike previous seasons, you got the sense they were going to maintain this lead or even increase it.

“We’ve talked about it, that we want to get to a point where when we get into these types of situations, we handle them correctly,” coach Derek Lalonde said after the shutdown period and eventual victory. “It was one night, but when we got ourselves a two-goal lead, we played a fairly mature third period. Certainly, I wouldn’t say we made it easy on ourselves, but it was a comfortable third period.

“Maybe that’s that quiet confidence.”

Through two games, both victories, and six fairly impressive periods, you can already see the influence general manager Steve Yzerman’s acquisitions are making.

Forwards David Perron, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik, along with defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta and goaltender Ville Husso have made contributions offensively, defensively — and in Husso’s case, a shutout opening night against Montreal.

Perron and Maatta have won Stanley Cups, Chiarot and Copp have been in long playoff runs, and that type of experience is already subtly being imparted on the Wings.

An example is the third periods in these two wins, and how different the Wings have looked.

“There was good chatter on the bench to do the right thing,” Lalonde said. “Very positive in the third period. Our goal is to put ourselves in that position a lot this year and obviously handle it well. For one night, we did that.”

Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who made 37 saves to preserve Saturday’s victory, said the veteran acquisitions have done a little bit of everything.

“Scoring goals, the penalty kill has been great these first two games,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s great when you get contributions up and down the lineup.”

Captain Dylan Larkin also made mention of the positive chatter on the bench, but also the togetherness the team showed and willingness to do whatever it took to win. Larkin said Tyler Bertuzzi blocking a shot and getting injured early in Saturday’s game was a turning point for the Wings.

“To see one of our leaders, one of our skilled players, do that, that was something we needed,” Larkin said. “It was a great effort. I just loved the way we battled and we blocked shots. Just the way we played together. We go down without Bert there because he blocked a shot, and it set the tone for the game.”

Lalonde has stressed since he took over the coaching position about the need to improve defensively and cut down last season’s horrid defensive statistics.

Except for a stretch in the second period Saturday where Nedeljkovic had to whitewash some Wings’ lapses, the Wings have been diligent about being a better defensive team.

“Our commitment to keep it out of our net,” Lalonde said, of what has pleased him through two games. “A shutout (Friday), we gave up two goals (Saturday). There were some within our game that led to too many quality looks (for New Jersey) and Ned bailing us out, but for the most part, we’re doing the right things, with the mentality of keeping it out of our net before (scoring).”

The Wings host Los Angeles Monday (7 p.m., BSD/97.1) to complete a rugged stretch of three games in four nights to begin the season. The busy schedule is a lot to ask of any team this early in the schedule, but Lalonde liked the idea of how this stretch could benefit his team.

“We kind of challenged the guys to bring it and we made a step in that direction, for that tougher mentality,” Lalonde said. “For the most part, they did that. There’s a commitment to each other, committed to playing the right way. It’s translated into six good periods so far. Guys are playing for each other.”

Kings at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 7 Monday, Little Caesars Arena.

▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1

▶ Outlook: The Wings are expected to get further update Monday morning on LW Tyler Bertuzzi, who suffered an upper-body injury blocking a shot Saturday in New Jersey … The Kings (1-2-0) are coming off a wild 7-6 victory Saturday in Minnesota. … C Adrian Kempe is off to a good start with three goals and an assist in three games … The Kings’ 11 goals scored ranks second in the NHL.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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