Detroit Red Wings fall into big hole early, late rally fails in 4-3 loss to Blue Jackets

Detroit Free Press

A homestand that showed the worst and best of the Detroit Red Wings ended with a thriller.

It was late to come Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, with the Wings spotting the Columbus Blue Jackets a four-goal lead, but the deficit was down to one with four minutes to play. Their rally came up just short, with the Wings losing, 4-3 to the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

“We weren’t ourselves the first or second,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “It’s frustrating because you give way too much easy offense to their skill. It’s very disappointing to waste a performance like that in the third with what we did the rest of the game.”

Olli Määttä was credited with a goal six minutes into the third period because he was the last Wings player to touch the puck before Mathieu Olivier knocked it into his own net. Jake Walman livened up the crowd with an unassisted goal a minute later, pulling the Wings within two with nearly 13 minutes to play. Lucas Raymond powered his way down low to make it 4-3 with 4:04 to play, on a setup by Filip Hronek and Ben Chiarot.

The Wings hadn’t offered much up till the third period, with Ville Husso carrying the workload in net. It was such a contrast to the energy and determination they showed in one of their best outings of the season when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. That came two days after they played what Derek Lalonde termed the Wings’ “worst game of the season” and still managed to beat the Winnipeg Jets. 7-5.

“There was no jump, no life on our bench,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “We were kind of just looking around and waiting for something good to happen and it didn’t. They scored four and we can’t give that lead. It’s disappointing after a good game.

“We finally decided to show up in the third and ran out of time. It’s unfortunate. We just didn’t start. We didn’t battle enough, let their top line have time and space, let them just float through without stopping and making it hard on them.”

Lalonde said the Wings “will be nauseous with video” as they review what went wrong against Columbus. The Wings are off on the road for the next three games, starting Monday for a day game at the Colorado Avalanche.

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Three in their net

The Wings had just seemed to build some momentum off a power play midway through the first period where they generated multiple good looks. Then came a dismal stretch: Patrik Laine scored off a one-timer, on a setup by linemate Johnny Gaudreau. That was at 12:47. On the next shift, the puck came loose in Detroit’s crease, and Vladislav Gavrikov made quick work to put it behind Husso. That was at 13:54. Two shifts later, Jack Roslovic fired a shot that ricocheted off the end boards and back out front, just in time for Laine to redirect the puck for his 11th goal of the season. That was at 15:20. Shots at the end of the first period favored the Blue Jackets, 13-8.

Make that four

Whatever the Wings spent first intermission doing, it didn’t lead to a pushback. Instead the Blue Jackets kept rolling, with Laine netting another goal less than two minutes into the second period. Adam Boqvist had the puck along the right boards and fired a pass across the ice, past Jordan Oesterle’s attempt to intercept with his stick, to Laine, who came through with another one-timer. The Wings went on a power play half a minute after that goal, and gave up a shorthanded chance to Roslovic.

Husso’s night

The save on Roslovic was one of multiple big saves from Husso, who was the only reason it wasn’t 7-0 after 40 minutes. He also stopped Roslovic when he rushed up the left flank and had a point blank attempt denied by Husso’s right pad. Husso had faced 22 shots after 40 minutes, while Elvis Merzlinkins had faced 16. It’s the second time this week Husso has been left to bail out his teammates, but at least against the Jets, the Wings were able to outscore their shoddy play.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. 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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