The Detroit Red Wings out-worked the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, taking away an important two points from the Ducks via a 3-1 victory in which the Wings were out-shot 33-16 and out-shot-attempted 66-43.
Jimmy Howard was superb, stopping 32 shots, and the Wings’ defense blocked 20 shots as Detroit bent but did not break under the weight of the Ducks’ attempted 3rd period comeback.
The game’s aesthetic value was null and void–this was a bit of an ugly Duckling of a game–but the Red Wings were particularly defiant in tone after the game, suggesting…well, we’ll get to that.
We start with a survey of the Ducks’ takes on the game, and for our friends from Anaheim, Tuesday’s loss stung. AnaheimDucks.com’s Kyle Shohara took note of the Ducks’ disappointment:
“We missed an opportunity to gain points and help solidify our position,” said head coach Randy Carlyle. “That’s the most important thing. We can’t worry about what other teams are doing right now. We’ve got to get our own fair share of points. Tonight we missed an opportunity.”
We will never know how the game would have turned out had Jakob Silfverberg scored into a wide-open net early in the first period in what was, at the time, a scoreless contest. Had his shot gone in – it caromed off the far-side post – the Ducks would have taken an early 1-0 lead in an opening period they clearly dominated. Instead, they found themselves down a goal in the first period and 2-0 before Henrique’s tally. Nevertheless, it wasn’t like they didn’t have opportunities to claw back into the game. They had four power plays, including two in the third period. They came up empty on all four.
John Gibson made 14 saves in the loss, the opener of this crucial four-game road trip.
“It’s frustrating,” said Corey Perry. “You have a chance to go ahead early in the game and it gets called back. You have to keep playing. That second period, we had a letdown. In the third, we came on a little more, but you have to put 60 minutes together each and every night.” (The no-goal Perry is referencing was Nick Ritchie‘s scoring chance that was considered goaltender interference).
Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, who improved to 23-23-9 (55 points), while Jimmy Howard won for the 16th time this season.
The Red Wings opened the scoring when Larkin intercepted Kevin Bieksa‘s attempted clearing pass right in the slot for his ninth goal and team-leading 43rd point of the season. The goal came at the 13:37 mark of the opening frame. Shots were 14-5 in favor of the Ducks after 20 minutes of play.
“We weren’t sharp with the puck and we needed to go upstairs more,” said Carlyle. “We put pucks into his feet. The puck was bouncing away from us. You can’t play that way. Two turnovers in the game gave them goals. Those are very easily correctable.”
The Ducks continued while speaking with the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens:
“We had some opportunities, but we have to find a way to be difference-makers when you have those opportunities,” [Adam] Henrique said. “Especially later in the game too. So it’s tough to not be able to get one of the power play.”
The Ducks were irked about a potential goal being wiped out when they felt Howard didn’t fully secure Nick Ritchie’s rebound attempt in front of the net, allowing Henrique to poke the puck out of the goalie’s grasp and over the goal line. But they’re asking themselves some bigger questions.
[Ryan] Getzlaf thought they played a good first period but didn’t give “a full honest effort all night long.” And when asked what needs to be done to bring that about, the center said, “Just go out and play.”
“That’s what we have to do,” Getzlaf said. “We have to stop worrying about the X’s and O’s and all that other stuff that we’re doing on the board. We have to go out and execute and play our game. The bottom line is you got to go and play better than the other team over there. Because everybody’s playing hard and everybody’s playing good hockey. We just have to elevate what we’re doing.”
The only victory for the Ducks came elsewhere. Losses by the Kings and Calgary kept them from losing ground when it came to the battle for the third automatic playoff berth out of the Pacific Division, which the Flames hold by one point.
“To me, that’s not a moral victory,” Carlyle said. “We missed an opportunity to gain points and to help solidify our position. And that’s the most important thing. We really can’t worry about what other teams are doing right now. We’ve got to get our own fair share of points. Tonight, we missed an opportunity.”
The Associated Press’s recap will serve as our pivot point between the Ducks and Red Wings’ perspectives:
“We had two turnovers that ended up in our net,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s what the game is like when teams are going for the playoffs.”
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard held up to intense pressure in the first period stopping 15 shots, and he finished with 32 saves. He kicked out his left leg to stop Corey Perry‘s shot in front of the net on a power play midway through the third period.
“When he plays like that, we play with confidence and it’s easier for us to play better,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said.
Anaheim generated a lot of scoring chances and had two potential goals were waved off after video reviews, but could only score once.
“We played well early,” Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said. “But we had those two goals called back that we thought could have counted, especially the first one, and we missed an empty net. That took something out of us.”
John Gibson had 14 saves for the Ducks, who have lost five of seven to slip in the Pacific Division standings.
“The last week or so has been frustrating because we aren’t competing at the level we need to compete,” Getzlaf said. “We have to push for the playoffs right now. We can’t wait. At this time of the year, everyone plays hard.”
The Red Wings were blunt: they may have gutted out a win, as they told DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji…
Dylan Larkin: When Larkin gets a gift, he knows what to do with it. At 13:32 of the first period, Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa passed the puck from behind the net right to Larkin, who turned and buried a backhand past Anaheim goaltender John Gibson. The goal extended Larkin’s point streak to four games, with one goal and four assists in that span. Larkin has nine goals this season. Larkin had 24 shifts for 18:07, had one goal on two shots, one takeaway and finished 2-of-7 in face-offs.
Quotable: “We grinded out a win. It was a hard game. They played heavy and had the puck a lot. All their D can skate. It was a tough game, but Jimmy played awesome and our team defense got a lot of practice, but we stuck with it and we did a good job, made it hard for them to get on the inside.” – Larkin
Quotable II: “Just that we really didn’t give up. I thought maybe tonight we didn’t have our best legs but we found a way to grind out a win. I thought we battled hard. This was probably closest to a playoff game in a while for us, so there was not a lot of room. It was fun to play a game like that.” – captain Henrik Zetterberg
But the Red Wings also suggested that they might force the Wings’ management to not sell at the trade deadline, as CBS Detroit’s Will Burtchfield noted:
“You try not to worry too much about [the trade deadline], but at the same time you’re worried it’s coming up,” Nielsen told 97.1 The Ticket. “It’s part of the game, so it’s tough, especially when you’re going to lose good friends and good teammates. It’s the worst part of the year. But hopefully we can put some wins together here and make management believe that we can still make it and keep us together.”
The Red Wings have a steep hill to climb to get back in the playoff race, made steeper by the fact they’re running low on games — just seven remain between now and the deadline. They’ve won two straight and picked up five points in their last three, but do they have enough time to convince general manager Ken Holland to keep the roster in tact?
“I hope so,” said Howard, who turned away 32 of 33 shots on Tuesday night in his best game in over a month. “I think as long as we keep working hard and doing things the right way and getting results, maybe we can force management’s hand, because honestly, we really do have a great group of guys in here and I think we all really enjoy going out and competing for ourselves. We want to flip the switch here.”
To do so, the Wings will have to go on the kind of run they haven’t been able to produce all season long. And it will have to start against three of the best teams in the NHL. Detroit plays at Tampa Bay on Thursday and at Nashville on Saturday, before coming home to face Toronto on Sunday.
Holland has been clear about his desire to pursue a playoff spot, but he’s ready to sell if he feels that’s out of reach. The goal for the Wings is to make his decision difficult. If they don’t win at least five of their seven games before the deadline, Holland won’t have to think twice.
“I think our job as players and coaches is to win as much as you can,” said Jeff Blashill, “so (if) we come home from this road trip with lots of wins we’ll be in a way better spot. Let’s worry about going to Tampa and trying to win a game.”
That much is true, whether you or I like it or not. They’re hard-wired to attempt to win as many games as possible, and that’s what they’re going to try to accomplish.
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also noted the Wings’ comments regarding the deadline…
“We want to win games,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who stopped 32 shots. “That’s what we’re focusing on, is winning games and getting points and giving ourselves a chance down the stretch to get in.”
The Feb. 26 trade deadline is fast approaching and there are considerable rumors the Red Wings will be sellers.
But players are holding out hope they can persuade general manager Ken Holland and his staff to keep from sending away any current players.
“I hope so,” Howard said. “As long as we work hard and do things the right way and get results, maybe we can force management’s hand. Honestly, we have a good group of guys in here and we all enjoy going out and competing. We want to pull the switch here.”
But in terms of the game, Kulfan duly noted that even the optimistic players and coach didn’t feel that their effort was an elegant one:
“Grind out a win,” Larkin said. “It was a hard game, they played heavy and had the puck a lot. It was a tough game but Jimmy played awesome, and our team defense got a lot of practice, but we stuck with it.”
After two disastrous nights on the penalty kill, the Red Wings killed all four Anaheim power plays to solidify the victory.
“Good one for the PK, not sure if we deserved it if it wasn’t for Howie,” Nielsen said. “They’re a big, heavy team and kind of came out and played the way they wanted. We figured it out the rest of the way.”
Or, as the coach put it:
“It was a muddy track out there,” Blashill said. “It was hard to get space both ways. We didn’t give up a whole lot of real chances. It was just a tough, tough game, so you have to compete like crazy and we competed pretty hard.”
Jimmy Howard was in fine form Tuesday night, and it helped propel Detroit to its second win in a row and third-straight with at least one point – this one a 2-1 decision over the Anaheim Ducks.
It couldn’t have been more fitting for Howard, as he also passed Tim Thomas for eighth all-time in wins by a U.S.-born goaltender with his 215th. He earned high praise from head coach Jeff Blashill, a former goalie in his own right.
“Any time you’re in that list of accomplishments, I think that’s awesome,” Blashill said. “I’ve talked lots about this where last year, he was in a tough spot. Over the summer, he was told he was gonna be the backup and he went to work. I just think that’s what life’s about… I just believe success in life comes from work ethic and perseverance. He went to work and he persevered. It’s not about whether you get knocked down; it’s about how many times you get back up. Jimmy’s gotten up every time whenever he’s been challenged, including this season.”
Howard credited his teammates, both past and present, for helping him reach the mark.
“It’s really special, but for a goaltender to get wins, you’ve gotta have guys in front of you willing to do their jobs, so really, it’s all the guys in front of me.”
“Not sure if we deserved it tonight, but I think if it wasn’t for Howie, this would’ve looked a little different,” Nielsen said. “They’re a big and heavy team and they came out and played the way we wanted. They were getting pucks deep on us, they were good on the forecheck, especially in the first period where we were stuck in our own end.”
“We were happy with a two-goal lead,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg joked. “We didn’t want another three-goal lead.”
Detroit (23-23-9) is eight points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
“We know our situation and what has to be done,” Larkin said. “We’re desperate right now.”
The Red Wings went 4 for 4 on the penalty kill after allowing six power-play goals in their past two games.
“I thought our kill was really good tonight,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “We got tested tonight, and we had a great response.”
Here’s a little bit more from Blashill per the Free Press’s Helene St. James‘ right-after-I-posted-the-entry-her-article-was-posted recap:
The Wings have five points from their past three games, but they are eight points out of the second wildcard spot, and would have to jump four teams.
It is unlikely to matter to management what happens over the seven games between now and the deadline; the focus in the front office is to acquire assets for the 2018 NHL draft. For those in the locker room, the focus is different.
“Our job as players and coaches is to win as much as you can,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Sometimes if you’re not getting results it’s easy to not believe, but I think both our coaching staff and our players can see that we’ve played good hockey, and let’s just stay with it. Let’s keep playing the type of hockey that we have to play to be successful.
Highlights: NHL.com posted a 3:18 highlight clip…
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 14, 2018
The Red Wings posted a 4:01 clip of comments from Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen, Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin and coach Jeff Blashill:
The Detroit News posted David Guralnick’s 32-image gallery, and Guralnick’s gallery includes this:
— David Guralnick (@DavidGuralnick) February 14, 2018
The Orange County Register posted a 25-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 42-image gallery;
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
The final shot attempts were 66-43 Anaheim.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: I guess we’re gonna go there again, per the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Andreas Athanasiou’s benching came with a message. Athanasiou played one shift during the third period of Tuesday’s game at Little Caesars Arena, as the Detroit Red Wings protected a two-goal lead that would result in a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
“I was playing the guys that I thought were going,” coach Jeff Blashill said. ‘Some nights, (Athanasiou) is really going and tonight I obviously through my ice time said he wasn’t going quite as good in my mind. It got to be a three-line game. They were playing three lines. I liked the match that I was seeing so I stayed with the match. I was going with the guys I thought were going.”
“There’s nights he’s going for sure and everybody can see it,” Blashill said. “When him and I talked as he was coming back we talked about making sure when he’s going, we’ll make sure he gets the ice time. Tonight just wasn’t his night. He’ll get another chance against Tampa (on Thursday) to have a big impact.”
The Detroit News’s John Niyo breached another sensitive subject, speaking with the Red Wings’ players about the NHL’s decision to not participate in the 2018 Olympic games:
“I don’t think any of us players understand why we’re not there, to be honest with you,” said the Wings’ Gustav Nyquist, who brought home a silver medal with Team Sweden four years ago in Sochi. “The possibility that we would get two Olympics in a row over there and it’s a big market in Asia, it would seem like a good idea to have us play, opening up new opportunities and growing the game.”
He paused and shrugged, before summing up a frustration that’s widely shared.
“It’s out of our hands,” Nyquist said. “But it’s a shame that we’re not there.”
Niyo continues, speaking with an aggravated Tomas Tatar, whose friends are attending the games:
“And it’s really tough when they start sending me all the pictures,” said Tomas Tatar, the Red Wings’ forward, sitting in front of his locker stall Tuesday morning as the Red Wings prepared to face the Anaheim Ducks at Little Caesars Arena.