Red Wings rally, get Alex Nedeljkovic a deserved victory against Rangers

Detroit News

New York — The Red Wings haven’t played well in front of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic this season, so Sunday was a concerted effort to change that around.

The script wasn’t exactly, maybe, like planned, but it was good enough. Good enough, in fact, for a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

Nedeljkovic stopped 27 shots to earn the victory, but it was Dominik Kubalik’s power play goal in overtime, at 2 minutes 43 seconds and Kubalik’s sixth goal, that gave the Wings their third consecutive victory (and third win in four nights).

“I just wanted to focus on me today, stop the puck for the boys and give them a chance to win in front of me,” Nedeljkovic said. “They played solid. Going down 2-0 in the first (period) could be a tough mountain to climb but we stuck with it and played our game and found a way to win.”

Nedeljkovic allowed eight goals last Monday in an 8-3 loss in Buffalo. But it was a game that completely got out of hand and Nedeljkovic was pretty much left on an island in that third period.

The Wings didn’t want that to happen again.

“That’s what bothered me the most about Buffalo,” forward David Perron said. “We’re going to lose games but we can’t let it get away from us, and if you want him to feel good about his game you have to help him out more than we did there.

“You can lose at that point 5-3, or 6-3 that’s fine. But you can’t get to eight and that kills his confidence. What a rebound game by him.”

Coach Derek Lalonde wanted a better effort in front of Nedeljkovic and got it.

“The guys wanted to respond well for Ned, we let him out to dry the last two road games, put him in some bad situations,” Lalonde said. “Ned is a good goalie and we just have to give him a chance to succeed and we did that. We were much better in front of him and when we weren’t, Ned made some big saves.”

Matt Luff (his first Wings’ goal) and Pius Suter (third goal) had second period goals, rallying the Wings from a 2-0 deficit after one period.

Without so many key players, and playing a busy schedule against quality opponents, the Red Wings keep earning early-season points. The win lifted the Wings to 7-3-2 (16 points) on the season.

The Wings won three consecutive games over Washington, the New York Islanders and Rangers, a bonafide playoff contenders, in a four-day stretch.

“For sure every game we kind of make those steps as a team,” Kubalik said. “With what our identity will be and what it will look like, and everyone is feeling good about it.”

This despite losing Filip Zadina on Saturday and having Tyler Bertuzzi, Oskar Sundqvist, Robby Fabbri and Jakub Vrana out of the lineup.

Lalonde said after Sunday’s game that Zadina has a lower-body injury, there is a bone broken, and though no timetable has been announced, Zadina will be a “week-to-week, month-to-month type of thing.”

But other players, like Luff and Suter, continue to step up.

“With the type of offense we have out of the lineup right now, guys are committed to playing the right way and it’s hard to do consistently,” Lalonde said.

Luff started the comeback with his first goal as a Red Wing at the 2:56 mark. Luff cruised the slot and deflected Ben Chiarot’s shot from the point past goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

The Wings sustained pressure after Luff’s goal and it finally paid off with Suter tying the game at the 8:37 mark.

Suter scored his third goal, and second in two games, tapping in a loose puck near the post past Halak.

Suter, too, has been a valuable plug-in for the Wings thus far. A steady player in the bottom-six forwards, Suter was on the top line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond the two games over the weekend.

“He’s a big part of the team,” Lalonde said. “He’s been playing super well and, again, an important part of the team.”

Kaapo Kakko and Mika Zibanejad (power play) had first-period goals for the Rangers.

Still, the Wings felt good about where they were. They had several quality scoring chances, specifically on two power plays, that could have resulted in goals and felt the game was still much within reach.

“We had some looks and it could have easily been 2-1, or 2-2,” Kubalik said. “We came back to the room and said we need to keep playing and working and hopefully we’ll get one (goal) and it’s going to turn around, and that’s exactly what happened.

“We deserved it, we earned it and we’re happy we got the win.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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