Viva Las Vegas: Detroit Red Wings say ‘something like this will certainly build confidence’

Detroit Free Press

LAS VEGAS — The Detroit Red Wings headed out to dinner, their appetites stoked by a satisfying victory.

The kind of puck management that coach Derek Lalonde has stressed since training camp was key to beating the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, Thursday, enabling the Wings to feel good on their scheduled flight home Friday. They host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, a chance to start one of those winning streaks the Wings have talked so much about of late.

“It would be nice to put some wins together and put ourselves in a better position,” Dominik Kubalik said after scoring a power play goal at T-Mobile Arena. “If we are going to be playing like that, I think we can build off our five-on-five game. That’s been pretty good, and special teams are getting better. We’ll be all right.”

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The only fault Lalonde found with the performance was a bit of sloppiness near the end of the first period, and again late in the third period.

“I still think we’re a little nervous in some of those situations in the third period, we could have made a few more plays out of our zone, instead of just panicking and giving up,” he said, “but I think that will come with some experience and maturing as a group.

“It can be a frustrating group at times because you see moments of us playing extremely well and for a majority of the time and just finding ways not to mange the game correctly and not get results. We were good from start to finish and got results. Something like this will certainly build confidence.”

The Wings scored first (Lucas Raymond, from Dylan Larkin), scored on a power play (Kubalik) and scored again (Joe Veleno) to pull ahead by two goals. The Knights, in reach of first place in the Western Conference, scored in the final minute after pulling their goaltender for an extra attacker — but unlike the Wings’ outing two nights earlier in Arizona, this time the third-period lead held.

“I think it gives us a lot of confidence,” Veleno said. “We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey. We just needed to find a way to dig in and play and win those games. We did a good job of that, grinding it out at the end.

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“A team like Vegas, they’re really offensive-minded and they’re good in transition, so our plan was to not give them easy offense and turn pucks over and we did a good job of that. We put pucks behind their D and got on the forecheck and were able to create momentum off that.”

The victory ended a three-game skid and improved the Wings’ record to 19-17-8.

“It was a huge win,” Raymond said. “Coming off a couple losses, it was huge for us to bounce back, especially the way we did it. It felt good.”

It won’t mean as much if the Wings don’t carry the effort into Saturday’s game — just last week, an excellent outing against the Toronto Maple Leafs was followed by a lousy one against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Wings want to demonstrate they have grown from last season, but their past few games didn’t show it, as they fell behind 5-0 en route to a 6-3 loss at Colorado on the first stop on this trip, and squandered a two-goal, third-period lead the next night against the Coyotes.

Vegas, on the other hand, delivered a winner.

“Overall, a good road trip,” Lalonde said. “You look at it from afar and you’re going, at Colorado, at Vegas, two of the top teams in the league. And then the way it played out in Arizona, where we played an excellent game and blow a 3-1 lead in the third. You want as many points as games on the road to hang in there, and that’s what we did. So this turned into a pretty solid road trip.”

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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