After three impressive wins, Red Wings beginning to feel confident, consistent

Detroit News

Detroit — The NHL season is heading into only its fifth week, so it’s difficult to get overly excited.

Yet, at the same time, with the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime victory Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, it’s difficult not to be impressed.

It was the third game in four nights, all against quality opponents. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead after one period. But the Wings never wavered, tied the game in the second period, then won it on Dominik Kubalik’s sixth goal, on a pass from David Perron. Two free-agent signings that have been exceptional thus far.

With the victory, the Wings have won three straight games and are 7-3-2, and they’re off to their best start since 2010.

Again, it’s early. But something could be brewing. The Wings are overcoming a slew of injuries to their forwards by getting contributions from different sources. The special teams have been increasingly better.

But foremost, the Wings are sticking to coach Derek Lalonde’s plea of focusing on preventing goals and the defensive mindset is taking shape.

“Guys are getting rewarded for staying with their game,” Lalonde said after Sunday’s victory. “It’s hard to stay with your game, and tonight is a perfect example. We’ve had some issues on the road, then we go down, 2-0, and (the Rangers) are feeling their game a little bit. Their stars are getting touches and looks on the rush in the first (period) and we could have easily gotten away from our game.

“But we didn’t. There is some confidence and trust in the game they’re playing, and it’s good.”

For the Wings to be effective, Lalonde wants them to focus on defense first, and the rest will take care of itself.

The formula, in its most basic form, is working. The Wings only allowed three total goals in the wins over Washington and the two New York teams. In the Wings’ seven victories, they’ve allowed only 11 goals.

“What’s great about (Sunday’s) win is we stuck with it and didn’t change our game, and made them change a little bit, but ours was the same way the whole way,” Perron said. “That’s the way you win in this league on a consistent basis.”

Improved team defense was a primary goal of Lalonde when he took over the Red Wings. The early results appear quite positive.

“This is how it’s going to have to look if we’re going to have any success at all,” Lalonde said. “We need to get into these low-scoring games. It’s about keeping (the puck) out, rather than putting (pucks) in. When we get some rhythm to our game, we go through stretches where we literally gave up one (scoring) chance against (Sunday in the second period).

“It takes pressure off you and your goalie.”

The Wings wanted to play a sound defensive game in front of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic against the Rangers, after falling apart in front of him in Nedeljkovic’s last two starts.

After two outstanding starts from goaltender Ville Husso, this was an opportunity for Nedeljkovic to continue to lay claim to playing time.

And Nedeljkovic did, making 26 saves and getting back into the win column.

“We have an identity that we’re trying to form here and we showed real good flashes of it and it’s just about doing it every single night,” Nedeljkovic said. “Even if we’re not getting the results, it’s still about playing the right way, and that’s how you’re going to win most nights.

“It’s tough to win in this league, and especially tough when you have a back-to-back. You take four points (two victories); these are things we can take with this down the road.

“It’s a lot of confidence (earned) when you play good teams and beat good teams. It’s huge, especially when we’re a younger group and to be able to go out and out-work teams, and we’re playing the game the right way and eventually, when you do things the right way, your skill takes over and you put pucks in the net.”

Canadiens at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena.

▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1

▶ Outlook: The Canadiens (5-6-1) are coming off a 6-4 loss Saturday to Vegas and have lost three consecutive games. C Nick Suzuki (8 goals, 15 points), RW Cole Caufield (8 goals, 14 points) and C/LW Kirby Dach (8 assists, 10 points) have been a formidable first line in recent games.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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