Derek Lalonde: ‘Incredibly frustrating’ that Detroit Red Wings lost, 5-1, to Devils

Detroit Free Press

Derek Lalonde described the night as “incredibly frustrating.”

The Detroit Red Wings were left to explain a 5-1 loss Wednesday after a good start turned into a disappointing finale. The New Jersey Devils built a two-goal lead during man advantages, and from there, the Wings could do little but note that they played well at even strength until, as Dylan Larkin put it, “the wheels fell off in the third.”

The Wings (16-13-7) move on to face the Florida Panthers on Friday, but do so ruing having outshot the Devils, 33-26, with little to show for it.

“On the whole, an incredibly frustrating night in that poor special teams and great performance by their goalie overshadowed a pretty good five-on-five game for us,” the Wings’ head coach said. “Which is frustrating.”

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The Wings were shut out until the 58th minute, when Lucas Raymond converted on the Wings’ second power play. By then, the Devils already had scored on two of their man advantages, and another of their goals came two seconds after Wings defenseman Jake Walman left the penalty box for the second time.

“This game was a special-teams battle we lost,” Larkin said. “They scored on their power play pretty easily. The first one is a missed assignment by me — lost the faceoff, and it’s in the back of the net. I really think the way we played five-on-five, we had a chance to win the hockey game. The wheels fell off in the third, but we outshot them. We just didn’t get it past [Vitek] Vanecek five-on-five, and I think that is the story.

“We felt if we got one there going into the second or even the third, we were going to get a couple, and it just didn’t happen. We didn’t convert on our chances, and the chances were there.”

From the moment he was named head coach last summer, Lalonde has emphasized playing team defense. He has said time and again the Wings “aren’t built for scoring,” and that isn’t going to change even as they welcomed Robby Fabbri to the lineup, with Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Zadina projected to return mid-month.

“It’s the focus every day,” Larkin said. “It’s every video session. We do a lot of video, and a lot of it is on defense. In the beginning of the season, when we were not allowing many goals against, our penalty kill got off to a great start.”

Wednesday was an odd game: The score makes it seem like it was a blowout, but the Wings played well and didn’t give up much through 40 minutes.

“We emphasized a good start and I thought we got it,” Lalonde said. “Unfortunately we’re still out of it, 0-0. It’s been a really tough read — the last three games, I think we’ve been outscored 7-0 in the first period, but our play was actually pretty good.

“It’s frustrating because throw out the seven overtime games, the 16 wins and the 13 losses, there’s definitely a little theme in there. We have to defend where we only give up eight to nine to 10 chances against. Which we did tonight. But we lost the special teams and we didn’t create any offense. This is what it has to look like five-on-five defensively, but we need a little in the other areas — special teams and we need to finish.”

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Goalie Ville Husso, who battled illness over the holidays, didn’t look in peak form, but he also could have used more help from teammates.

“A player being out sick, you don’t get reps or touches,” Lalonde said. “He looked like he wasn’t in rhythm. It’s just a little unfortunate, a little unlucky, but we’ve seen his play this year. He probably comes up with a few more of those. But it’s tough to evaluate a goalie performance when we get shut out through 58 minutes.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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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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