Devils skate past punchless Red Wings 5-1

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings returned to the business of playing hockey Wednesday, after days of roster speculation, but the result wasn’t what they were looking for.

New Jersey scored two second period power-play goals, sparking the Devils to a convincing 5-1 victory over the Red Wings.

Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored the first power play goal, then had his shot deflected by Nico Hischier on the second goal.

Michael McLeod, Alexander Holtz and Jack Hughes added third period goals, and Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek made the lead stand up with 32 saves.

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

Lucas Raymond scored his 10th goal at 18 minutes of the third period, depriving Vanecek a shutout. Ville Husso stopped 21 shots for the Wings.

“We lost the special teams battle, they scored on their power play pretty easily,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “The first one there, a missed assignment by me off 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 that hockey game. We out-shot them (33-26), we just didn’t get it past Vanecek on five on five and that’s the story.”

The Wings (16-13-7) have only won three of their last 11 games (3-6-2), and are gradually losing ground in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

“There’s an urgency in our room that hasn’t quite been there in the past couple years,” Larkin said. “I give a lot of credit to the guys who came in and some younger guys who want more for themselves and their careers,” he continued.

“Playoffs are talked about. We haven’t talked much about it in the past but the conversation is there and we understand where we’re at. Once we get going here with our full lineup, we really need to not give up points like that,” Larkin said.

If they are to get back in the hunt, they will do so without forward Jakub Vrana and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic for the near future. Both were assigned to minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Wednesday on conditioning stints and were in the Griffins lineup Wednesday at Van Andel Arena.

Nedeljkovic made 26 saves sparking the Griffins to a 3-1 victory over Cleveland. Vrana finished without a point for a fourth straight game, with two shots on net.

Vrana returned to Grand Rapids (he played three games last week there) after clearing waivers Wednesday. Vrana’s immediate future with the Wings appears uncertain.

“Certainly it’s something that guys know about,” said Larkin of the roster and lineup speculation. “It’s going in our locker room and you think about it whether you’re in the lineup or kind of a bubble guy, young guy, whatever. There’s been some tough decisions made but you have to show up and play and the guys we dressed today were in the lineup for a reason. Just being close enough isn’t good enough right now and we need to start to grab those points.”

Losing Vrana certainly hurts the offensive potential on this roster, which has struggled at times this season to produce enough goals. The Wings did get Robby Fabbri back in the lineup Wednesday, making his season debut following knee surgery last spring.

Tyler Bertuzzi (hand) is also expected to return within the next two weeks, which could offset not having Vrana in the lineup.

“You hope so,” said coach Derek Lalonde after Wednesday’s morning skate. “Obviously we’re scoring in this little win streak (before Wednesday’s loss). We’re not built like some of the other offensive top-end teams in the league. We’re fine with that. We’re going to win with what we keep out of our net. We’re 16-12-7 (before Wednesday) and we look at those wins and losses and they all look like that. The games we won it was about us keeping it out of our net.”

Fabbri was on a line with Pius Suter and Oskar Sundqvist and skated well while playing 13:48, with two shots and a plus-two plus-minus rating.

“I liked his game,” Lalonde said. “He creates offense, he sets Sunny (Sundstrom) all alone in the slot. He drove offense a little bit on his line. His energy, he made plays, hunted pucks, he was good. I didn’t like the turnover he created for their goal against (in the third period) and it’s something we haven’t done all year, but I just think it’s him getting up to speed with his game.”

The Devils (24-11-3) took a 1-0 lead on Hamilton’s ninth goal, just after the Wings failed on a power play attempt.

The Devils had much better luck, and did it quickly, as right after a Hischier face-off win, the puck got to Hamilton at the point who whistled a shot past Husso at 9 minutes 17 seconds of the second period.

New Jersey made it 2-0 with Hamilton and Hischier prominent again on the power play.

Hamilton was on the point again and snapped a shot that Hischier deflected playing net-front, leaving Husso with no chance, Hischier’s 17th goal at 16:20.

New Jersey quickly squashed hopes early in the third period, as McLeod scored his fourth goal at 1:51. Husso made a stop on a driving Holtz but took himself out of position, leaving McLeod with an empty net to shoot into.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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