Detroit Red Wings didn’t think they played ‘that bad’ at Colorado. Here’s why

Detroit Free Press

DENVER — One game into this trip, and it’s pretty much down to a salvage operation in the desert.

The Detroit Red Wings focused on positives as they headed towards a Tuesday game at the Arizona Coyotes, who have lost nine in a row. The Wings have lost two in a row, schooled to the tune of a 6-3 defeat by their old rival, the Colorado Avalanche on the the first stop of a jaunt west that ends Thursday at the Vegas Golden Knights.

“I usually don’t grab the guys right after a loss, but I thought it was important,” coach Derek Lalonde said after Monday’s game at Ball Arena. “You leave the rink, you lose, 6-3, you don’t feel very good about yourself. But when you look at the whole process of it — we probably out-chanced them, I know we outshot them. They just got some momentum off some power plays and a couple of their guys had some really, really elite nights. That was the difference.”

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Andrew Copp said the Wings “didn’t play that bad.” They were behind, 5-0, when he scored late in the second period.

“It’s tough to say that, but we have to finish our chances, we have to be ready to go right away, and we have to be tight checking right away,” Copp said. “Our gaps are a little too big and we’re a little too slow to close in the d-zone.

“If you let those guys go around the world, they are going to find shooting lanes and passing lanes and it’s going to end up in the back of your net.”

The Wings rued giving the Avs four power plays, the first of which happened as a result of a goaltending interference challenge that went against the Wings, when officials ruled Nathan MacKinnon had only had incidental contact with Ville Husso.

“It’s called that it’s not goalie interference,” Wings captain Dylan Larkin said. “How I see it, I see MacKinnon’s toe kind of grabs Huss’ heel and pulls him out of the crease and they score to make it 1-0 and then they go on the power play.

“Five-on-five, I thought we were pretty good. They got the big line and the way they roll around the offensive zone, we just gave them too much time and space with the puck and they are going to make you pay.”

The Wings were playing well at the point the Avs made it 1-0 at 5:12, but even though they killed the penalty, it seemed to deflate them. Husso’s outing ended after two periods and giving up five goals on 22 shots, but that was because Lalonde saw an opportunity to get Magnus Hellberg some looks ahead of his designated start against the Coyotes.

“But,” Lalonde emphasized, “I don’t think he wants a 160-foot Nathan MacKinnon breakaway as part of the rhythm.”

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That was the difference Monday: The Avalanche’s stars made noise — two goals, two assists from MacKinnon, two goals and an assist from Cale Makar — while the Wings didn’t get anything from their stars until it was too late to matter.

“A lot of it was their stars,” Lalonde said. “You get a game like that out of MacKinnon — he completely took the game over.  He had some grade-As, got the building going. Certainly a credit to a couple of their stars. But we left some plays out there, we had some opportunities and I think we could have cashed in with some of our chances early on.”

Lalonde has iterated multiple times of late how the Wings cannot take any time off during games, because they’re not good enough to overcome that. They have good stretches, but not for long enough.

“It’s frustrating on the whole in that I don’t mind our first period,” Lalonde said. “We had some looks, probably should have had a goal or two, and we get out of it 2-0, which was kind of frustrating. It kind of reflected the whole game.

“Even up to that four-goal lead, we had some stretches, and hopefully something we can build off, get a good start, flip these outcomes.”

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