Detroit Red Wings reveal a new identity, responding from bad loss with 3-game win streak

Detroit Free Press

NEW YORK — David Perron had a good feeling about Dominik Kubalik as soon as the Detroit Red Wings newcomers went to dinner back in September.

“Him and I, in Traverse City at training camp, first guy I sat down with, had a beer, started connecting with,” Perron said Sunday. “He was one of the first guys I got to know. Just kind of had a good vibe about him. I like his energy, I like the way he showed up to a new team in great shape playing some good hockey. We seem to have some chemistry on the power play for sure. He knows where to get open on the ice. Great goal by him.”

Perron had just set up Kubalik in overtime to secure a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers, putting the Wings on a three-game winning streak headed into Tuesday’s test against the Montreal Canadiens. What stood out at Madison Square Garden was how well the Wings played from start to finish, even after they got down by two goals in the first period.

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There was no sagging, just resilience.

“What’s great about this win is we just stuck with it, we didn’t change our game, we felt like we kind of made them change a little bit,” Perron said. “Certainly ours was the same the whole way. That’s the way you win in this league on a consistent basis and if you lose, you can kind of be proud of what you did. It was a good win.”

Alex Nedeljkovic came through with a big performance, rebounding from three subpar outings. Like his teammates, he has kept working hard, and waited for results.

“We have an identity we’re trying to form here and we’ve shown really good flashes of it this year and it’s just about doing it every single night,” he said. “It’s a lot of confidence. When you beat good teams, it’s huge. We’re a young group, and to be able to go out and out-work teams, we’re playing the game the right way.”

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It was a great way to end a week that began with such a stinker, with the Wings getting blown out, 8-3, in Buffalo on Oct. 31. It was the worst game the Wings played under new head coach Derek Lalonde. They responded by beating the Washington Capitals, 3-1, and then the New York Islanders, 3-0.

“Newsy does a good job to kind of reset us after those type of losses,” Perron said. “That could have gone many ways, with a team maybe that has been fragile in the past. Now we start piling a couple wins together, this weekend here, playing some of our better hockey, and the challenge now is coming after a day off and trying to do it again at home. That’s what we’re putting our focus on now.”

It’s the first three-game winning streak the Wings (7-3-2) have enjoyed this season.

“This is how it’s going to have to look if we’re going to have any success at all,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “We need to get into these low-scoring — it’s about keeping it out more than putting it in. It leads to results.”

The results have come even as sick bay has swelled: Filip Zadina (lower body), Oskar Sundqvist (upper body), Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body), Jakub Vrana (players assistance program) and Robby Fabbri (knee) are all on the sidelines, and none are on the near horizon.

“I don’t foresee anyone coming back in the next couple days, couple games,” Lalonde said. “I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see.”

Kubalik’s offense has stood out all the more given how the Wings’ depth has been depleted. It was his sixth goal of the season, giving him 15 points in 12 games. He’s been a fireball of energy and offense since the first day of camp, thriving at both ends of the ice.

“I think he reflects our team,” Lalonde said. “He is doing a lot of the right things. He’s getting above pucks, he’s closing gaps, he’s a big part of our defense out of our zone. Reloading. You keep doing that, you put yourself in good situations, and he’s done that.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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