Detroit — The day off Wednesday was well earned and needed for the Red Wings.
Since flying to Vancouver on Feb. 12, they’ve been on an odyssey of five cities and games over nine days. It was a grueling trip, in some hostile and normally difficult arenas to win.
All the Wings did, though, was win four of those five games, continue to build on a positive stretch (they’ve won eight of their last 11 games), and put themselves squarely in the playoff chase.
“We’ve had that for a while now, even before this (streak of wins),” coach Derek Lalonde said of a growing sense of confidence. “We’ve been right there playing the right way, we’ve had good buy-in, and now we’re finding ways to manage our game a little bit better and flip some of those tight games.”
Tuesday’s 3-1 victory in Washington to successfully end the trip was as good a way to cap the trip as could be.
Rebounding from a poor loss in Seattle, the Wings were without captain Dylan Larkin (game misconduct early in first period) much of the night, but got positive contributions up and down the roster.
“Not ideal losing Larks early, and (penalty) killing seven minutes of the first 22 or 23 minutes, but our guys managed it extremely well,” Lalonde said. “We needed a complete effort from everyone. We wanted to step up a little more and they did, and we got a good road win.”
The Wings appear to be building momentum, finding different people contributing nightly.
All the while, goaltender Ville Husso continues to be one of the constants. Husso was the key in the third period as Washington attempted one final push to mount a rally.
“We didn’t play well enough in Seattle, didn’t play good enough to win, and this game we wanted to win right from the first period on that (penalty) kill, we were on it,” said Husso, who senses a team that believes it can be successful. “We know we can win in this league. We have the team that can win.”
While the victory Tuesday was important for so many reasons, including defeating a struggling Washington team that is in the pool of teams competing with the Wings for a wild-card spot, Lalonde felt how the Wings responded can possibly serve as a teaching point.
“The importance of the game and how big this was standings-wise, just as important to us was the way we managed the game a found a way to win,” Lalonde said. “It’s something I’m hoping we can build off and something we can tap into later in the season.”
Larkin was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for cross-checking Washington forward T.J. Oshie in the face during Tuesday’s game, the NHL’s Department of Safety announced.
The incident occurred at 12:37 of the first period. Larkin was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for cross-checking.
The money goes to the players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Losing Larkin early forced the Wings to move people around in the lineup, but as has been the case, players thrived on the responsibility.
Pius Suter scored two goals, one shorthanded during Larkin’s penalty and the other clinching the game in the third period, giving Suter five goals in the last five games and goals in the last three games.
It was Suter’s first multi-goal game since Jan. 4, 2022.
“It just shows everybody is ready to step up,” Suter said. “Each guy gets extra minutes and you can’t complain about that.”
Suter became the sixth Wings player to score at least 10 goals this season, joining Larkin (22), Dominik Kubalik (16), Lucas Raymond (15), David Perron (14) and Jonatan Berggren (11).
Suter’s savvy, Lalonde said, is a big bonus for the Wings.
“He’s a smart hockey player,” Lalonde said. “He has a little confidence now finishing around the net. Down the stretch we went with three centers and he logged a ton of minutes and did a great job.
“Anytime you go on a run like this, putting together wins like this, you usually are getting balanced scoring and that’s what we got on this road trip.”
Rangers at Red Wings
▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m., Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
▶ Outlook: The Rangers (33-15-9) will be smarting, coming off a 4-1 loss Monday against Winnipeg, the Rangers’ lone loss in their last 10 games. … LW Artemi Panarin (47 assists, 65 points), C Mika Zibanejad (30 goals) and D Adam Fox (43 assists) headline a powerful lineup, strengthened by newest acquisition RW Vladimir Tarasenko.