There wasn’t much for the Detroit Red Wings to do after Friday’s dismantling than move on to the next game.
After two energetic performances, their third outing in four nights fizzled against a Winnipeg Jets team with a Western Conference wild-card spot on the line. The Jets opened with six straight goals en route to a 6-2 victory at Canada Life Centre.
The loss does at least keep the Wings (33-33-9) in the draft lottery mix for a shot at drafting No. 1 overall. The Wings were ninth in the draft standings after Friday’s loss; only the league’s 10 worst teams are eligible to move up to No. 1. The Wings next play Sunday at playoff-bound Toronto, one of seven games left on the schedule.
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That Friday would end in defeat became clear early on, as the Jets funneled one quality chance after another at Magnus Hellberg in net. A three-goal deficit after the first period grew to four just over a minute into the second period, when Dylan DeMelo beat Hellberg with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle. Nino Niederreiter continued the rout at 13:42, when he took opportunity of chaos at the net to scoop the puck behind Hellberg. Nikolaj Ehlers added to the damage at 5:07 of the third period, scoring on Winnipeg’s 23rd shot on net. Final shots favored the Jets, 29-24.
David Perron fired a shot on net during a Wings power play that deflected in off a Jets player and gave Perron his 20th goal of the season, and 21 seconds later, Joe Veleno scored for the first time in 26 games.
The Jets feasted in the first period, with multiple players showing some much-needed offense. First it was Shelby Township’s Kyle Connor tipping Brenden Dillon’s shot, at 6:56. That was only Connor’s second goal in 15 games. At 11:57, Blake Wheeler scored for the first time in 22 games when he drove to the net just as Ehlers timed a pass that went through Jake Walman’s legs and gave Wheeler an easy tap-in. The Jets made it 3-0 at 13:34 when Mark Scheifele came out from behind the goal line and tapped in Neal Pionk’s shot to score for the first time in 10 games. The Wings also had to kill two penalties in the first period.
The Wings don’t have any spare forwards so it was the same group Friday that played Thursday, but on the back end, Jordan Oesterle subbed in for Robert Hägg and Gustav Lindstrom subbed in for rookie Simon Edvinsson. The Wings do plan to play Edvinsson in a road game, to give him a taste of what it is like when they don’t have the last change and can’t control who he is on the ice against. Edvinsson was OK Thursday against Carolina, but took two penalties. Edvinsson has played four games, so he has five left without triggering the first year of his entry-level contract.
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Center Marco Kasper, the team’s first-round pick (No. 8 overall) from 2022 who was recalled this week from Sweden after his season there ended, was with the Wings when they flew to Winnipeg. He’s dealing with an upper-body injury, but was able to be a part of warmups and is benefitting from just being around the NHL scene and seeing up close what it takes. The Wings have a scheduled day off Saturday, so he wouldn’t be part of drills, health permitting, before Sunday’s morning skate in Toronto. Kasper, who turns 19 on April 8, posted eight goals, 15 assists and 72 penalty minutes in 52 games with Rögle BK. His 23 points were the second-most by any skater 20 years of age or younger in Sweden’s top professional league.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.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.