Detroit − In case you weren’t watching the basketball game Thursday, there was a hockey game going on at Little Caesars Arena.
But wait, yes, you were probably better off watching basketball. Much more entertaining.
The Red Wings grabbed an early lead Thursday but watched the St. Louis Blues whittle away and defeat the Wings, 4-3.
“I loved our start but really disappointed how we handled the goals against,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “It’s a reality of where we’re at, and instead of feeling sorry for ourselves for the next four or five minutes after the goals scored, go play the game right.
“I hated the way we handled it and how we just lost momentum and energy every time a goal went in. That game was there for the taking and we let it get away from us.”
With goaltender Ville Husso (lower-body) unavailable, Magnus Hellberg earned his second consecutive start. But unlike Tuesday, when Hellberg rallied from a bad start to helped carry the Wings to a victory in St. Louis, Hellberg wasn’t able to carry the momentum.
BOX SCORE: Blues 4, Red Wings 3
Two Blues goals (Brayden Schenn, Sammy Blais) allowed in the second period, which turned a 2-1 Wings lead to a 3-2 deficit, led Lalonde to pull Hellberg (10 saves on 13 shots) in favor of Alex Nedeljkovic (one goal allowed on nine shots), who was an emergency recall earlier in the morning for Husso.
Simon Edvinsson scored his first NHL goal, and Jake Walman and Alex Chiasson scored the Wings’ (31-31-9) goals.
“We were off to a good start and the bench felt energized, but it’s a tough league to let go,” Chiasson said. “You give an inch there and the next thing you know, they grab momentum and we found ourselves chasing the game a little bit.
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“It’s a good lesson for our group. We came back in the third (period) and found a way to get back in there but we have to find a way to play 60 minutes. The league is too good to let down and let other teams come back in these types of games.”
Chiasson scored his fifth goal at 17 minutes, 44 seconds of the third period, cutting the Blues’ lead to 4-3. With Nedeljkovic pulled for an extra attacker, Chiasson backhanded a loose puck in the slot past goaltender Joel Hofer (27 saves).
Edvinsson opened the scoring just 38 seconds into the game. Edvinsson’s shot from the point bounced off a Blues’ defender’s skate and eluded goalie Hofer, giving the Wings a quick 1-0 lead.
“It was one of the ugliest goals in Detroit history,” said Edvinsson of his goal. “It was fun (to score). I would be happier for a goal tomorrow (instead, for a victory). (I had) two penalties. Not good enough.”
Lalonde felt there was progress in Edvinsson’s game, despite the penalties.
“It’s part of the development,” Lalonde said. “I loved he got on the (score) sheet. He made some plays offensively. He was avoiding some big mistakes. I loved some of his plays in transition. It was another positive step for him.”
Walman continued the Wings’ hot start early, making it 2-0 at 1:28. Walman snapped a shot from just inside the circle that beat Hofer high, for Walman’s eighth goal.
But the Blues got back in the game with Alexy Toropchenko’s goal midway in the period.
Toropchenko fired a shot from the top of the circle that flew past Hellberg, who appeared to be screened on the play. It was Toropchenko’s sixth goal, at 9:53.
The Blues began to make their move early in the second period.
Schenn tied the game with his 19th goal. Jordan Kyrou lifted a shot from top of the slot that Schenn deftly tipped past Hellberg, tying the game 2-2 at 3:31.
After a Red Wings power play went nowhere, the Blues went ahead for good.
Colton Parayko’s shot from the point was stopped by Hellberg, but the puck rebounded directly to Blais in front of the crease, who neatly deposited the puck past Hellberg at 12:40.
That was enough for Lalonde, who replaced Hellberg with Nedeljkovic, who saw his first NHL action since Dec. 8.
But Nedeljkovic’s welcome back was hardly memorable. Jake Neighbours got behind the Wings’ defense, took an outlet pass from Robert Bortuzzo, and scored on a breakaway at 14:08, Neighbours’ fifth goal, giving the Blues a 4-2 lead.
“It’s tough, I can only imagine coming into the game cold and (facing) a breakaway,” Chiasson said. “Ned played well the rest of the game, and good for him. He battled as much as he could. I played with him in Grand Rapids and I want to see a guy like that do well.”
Lalonde also felt Nedeljkovic steadied himself after the breakaway, and now both Nedeljkovic and Hellberg will get an opportunity while Husso is unavailable (Lalonde said Husso is day-to-day).
“Both will get the net. Both will get an opportunity,” Lalonde said. “I want them to work hard. This is a great opportunity for both of them. If someone can run with it, they’ll get it. It’s sitting right there, it’s a huge opportunity for both guys.”