Red Wings-Canadiens wrap-up: Habs get back on track as Red Wings grouse about ‘inexcusable’ performance

Detroit dropped their 3rd straight game overall (Detroit is 4-4-and-2 now) and their 3rd straight game in Canada (without Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin alike) on Tuesday night, losing 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens in La Belle Province.

To say that the Montreal Canadiens are dominant at home vs. Detroit is an understatement:

Defeating the Red Wings 3-0 tonight, the #Canadiens have now gotten 2 of their 3 wins in 11 games so far this season against the Wings and by a combined score of 9-1. Overall, the Habs are a superb 15-3-3 in their last 21 home meetings with DET (dating back to the 2003-04 season)— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) November 3, 2021

Nick Suzuki, Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher each scored as the @CanadiensMTL skated to a 3-0 win. Montreal has now scored nine straight goals against Detroit dating to Oct. 23.#NHLStats:— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 3, 2021

I’m in the minority here, but I’m not buying the whole, “Oh, the Wings didn’t have Bertuzzi or Larkin, so you can write the game off” theory tonight. Tonight, I’m actually pretty pissed off at the Red Wings for not showing up the way they should have against a struggling, now 3-and-8 Canadiens team.

The Wings had every opportunity to pounce upon the Habs coming back from a West Coast trip, and instead, they laid an egg, and that’s on the personnel that was on the ice and the coaches who were behind the bench.

As you might imagine, the Canadiens were delighted after the game, none more than Nick Suzuki, who scored a goal and added two assists as the Habs pounced on the Red Wings early and often. Suzuki told the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey that it was easy to “bounce back” from the Habs’ 4-2 loss to Anaheim:

“I try to move on pretty fast after a game,” Suzuki said. “(You) can’t do anything once it’s over, just try to learn from it.

Suzuki, who has seven points in the past five games, said the Canadiens wanted to have a fast start and they hemmed the Red Wings in their zone from the opening faceoff until Suzuki scored the opening goal at 2:06.

“(Christian Dvorak’s) line did a great job, they were out there for about a minute and after the change, we were getting the puck in and getting them tired,” Suzuki said. “We were the third line out there and we got a big goal and that set the tone for the game.”

The goal was the first of the season for Suzuki and he said it took some weight off his shoulders.

“I’ve had some chances and hopefully it will spark something good,” he said.

The game had to be a confidence booster for Suzuki. In addition to his three-point night, he had five shots on goal and won 13 of 19 faceoffs for a 68-per-cent success rate.

Goaltender Jake Allen stopped 22 shots in a shutout performance, and he told Hickey that the Canadiens got the job done by playing the right way:

“Tonight, guys were on the right side of the puck and when you see (Tyler Toffoli) play that way, and Suzy playing down low, it gets infectious and all four lines were doing it,” Allen said.

For a 3-and-8 team, their goaltender spoke as if, well, the Canadiens went to the Stanley Cup Final a couple of months ago:

“Consistency is such a general word, but it’s success,” Allen said. “If you can be consistent as a group every single night, the chances of your winning are on your side. You’re not going to be great every game. There might be 30 per cent of the games all year when you feel amazing, but for the rest you have to find a way to put it together as a team and that’s what we have to do on Thursday. If we do the job Thursday, we can keep moving on, but it’s one day at a time.”

Hickey also offered the game’s narrative

Nick Suzuki provided the spark as the Canadiens took 2-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old. Suzuki scored his first goal of the season when took a pass from Tyler Toffoli in tight and beat Alex Nedeljkovic at 2:06.

Suzuki was the playmaker on the second goal as he found Josh Anderson with a two-line pass along the boards midway through the period. Anderson. used his speed go in alone from the blue line and beat Nedeljkovic with a shot to the far post on the glove side.

Jonathan Drouin’s night ended at 7:40 of the first period when he was a victim of friendly fire. Brett Kulak’s slapshot from the point hit Drouin on the left ear. Drouin made a beeline to the dressing room and was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Coach Dominque Ducharme said that Drouin returned from the hospital and appeared to be okay, but the Habs were going to conduct more tests on Drouin today.

Brendan Gallagher went to the dressing room late in the second period, but returned to start the third and completed the scoring with an empty-net goal. Suzuki picked up an assist for his third point of the night. Gallagher missed Sunday’s game in Anaheim with an undisclosed injury and he was a game-time decision against Detroit. He left after he was hit by Nedeljkovic in front of the crease.

The Canadiens took overlapping penalties in the second period, which produced a 28-second 5-on-3 advantage for the Red Wings, but Detroit failed to register a shot on goal during that time. It was only the second game this season in which Montreal didn’t give up a power-play goal. The Canadiens had one power play and managed one shot on goal.’s Sean Farrell noted that Allen has pitched 2 shutouts over his past 3 starts, and that the Canadiens are opening a 4-game home stand:

“I thought it was our best game of the year,” Allen said. “We were just solid all over the ice and the game looked easy for us, to be honest. And that’s the way it should be when you’re all playing as one. So I was really impressed with how they played.”

Nick Suzuki had a goal and two assists, Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Toffoli had two assists for Montreal (3-8-0).

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Suzuki said. “We needed to come out in this homestand and do a good job and get a win to start it off. So we’re happy just to get the win.”

As you know by now, things did not go so well for the Red Wings…

Alex Nedeljkovic made 38 saves for Detroit (4-4-2), which is 0-2-1 in its past three games and 0-3-0 this season without forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who is unable to play in Canada because he is unvaccinated against COVID-19.

“I’m assuming if I’m their coach I would be happy with the way they played,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “But I’m not their coach. I’m our coach and I wasn’t happy with the way we played. All I know is what we were doing wasn’t good enough. I know that for sure.” 

Along with Bertuzzi, the Red Wings were also without captain Dylan Larkin, who did not play for personal reasons.

“Whether those guys are in or not, we’ve got to try to find ways to score goals and try to be in games,” Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “I thought ‘Ned’ gave us a chance. He made some big time saves, but we’ve got to put the puck in the net a little bit more.”

Update: Dueling coaches, dueling narratives, per the Associated Press’s recap:

“Our execution wasn’t good enough, our work ethic wasn’t good enough,” Blashill said. “It was a 2-0 game, we had a chance to come out and have a great third period against a team that’s just come off a West Coast trip, that lost a player early in Drouin and we didn’t even come close to mustering up the effort.”

Gallagher’s empty-netter sealed Montreal’s second win of the season over Detroit.

Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme was satisfied with both the result and the way his team played.

“That’s the way we play, that’s our team,” Ducharme said. “That’s what we need to do and it’s the first time that we do that for 60 minutes. We saw glimpses of that but we need to do that for 60 minutes. It’s not more complicated than that.”

It’s kind of strange to read Sportsnet’s Eric Engels’ take on the game–and we will pause here before diving head-first into the Wings press’s recaps–because you’d think that the Canadiens slew Goliath, not the 2021-2022 Detroit Red Wings:

Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher and Nick Suzuki were the three players at the heart of this crucial win for the Montreal Canadiens, three players showing those letters stitched to the front of their jerseys were precisely in the right place — over their hearts.

Never mind that their best came in a 3-0 win over a hapless Detroit Red Wings side that was missing two of its three leading scorers — Dylan Larkin (for family reasons) and Tyler Bertuzzi (for selfish reasons); it’s not as if the 2-8 Canadiens were heavy favourites to win against the 4-3-1 Wings at the Bell Centre, and they’re not likely to be heavily favoured in other games until they can show with a modicum of consistency they won’t be completely crippled by not having Carey Price, Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson at their disposal.

But it’s not a coincidence that a game coach Dominique Ducharme referred to as one that led to the rediscovery of the Canadiens’ identity was owned by its current leadership group.

The Red Wings were favored to win the game, but the Canadiens aren’t exactly dead on their feet, while the Red Wings nearly were just that–kaput from the drop of the puck–and coach Jeff Blashill explained the Wings’ loss thusly, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted:

“They were better than us from the drop of the puck, the first shift all the way to the last shift,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They played like it was a playoff game and we played like it was an exhibition game. That’s not even close to what we need to do in order to be successful. It wasn’t in the hemisphere in what we need to do. We have to be the team that plays like it’s the playoff game and our battle level has to be way higher, compete level way higher and our work ethic has to be better. All those factors weren’t even close.”

Blashill put his foot down, as it were:

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played,” Blashill said. “We had a bunch of players not even close to what they’re capable of. We didn’t create any pressure on their defense, in the third (period) especially.  It’s inexcusable. We have to be way better than that.”

The Canadiens are known to feed off the energy and momentum the Bell Centre crowd can instigate, and it was a factor in this game.

“It’s a tough building to play in, it’s a momentum building, and they came out right from the first shift and kind of titled the ice,” defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “They scored a couple of goals and the way they started really benefited them. We would have liked to have come out a little bit harder and get a few more shots. We made it too easy.”

Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 38 shots and kept the Wings close with timely saves throughout the game. Montreal’s Jake Allen made 22 saves for his shutout. Nedeljkovic was easily the lone bright spot for the Wings.

“Since the last part of the Chicago game (Oct. 24) until now, he’s started to find a groove a little bit and he certainly played well and kept us in the game (Tuesday),” Blashill said.

The Free Press’s Helene St. James posted a truncated recap which also took note of Blashill and DeKeyser’s remarks

“They were better than us from the first shift all the way to the last shift,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They played like it was a playoff game; we played like it was an exhibition game. That isn’t even close to what we need to do to be successful. That wasn’t even in the hemisphere of what we need to do.”

The Wings pulled Alex Nedeljkovic with three minutes to play, and the Canadiens took advantage when Brendan Gallagher scored into the empty net. It’s only the second time this season the Wings (4-4-2) have been shut out.

“It’s a tough building to play in,” Danny DeKeyser said. “It’s a momentum building. They came out from the first shift tilting the ice. We weren’t able to push back at all.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Wings as they face the 4-and-3 Boston Bruins on Thursday–Boston hasn’t played since last Saturday–and then the Wings play back-to-back games in Buffalo against the surprising Sabres on Saturday, and the always-difficult Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday (so that’s 3 games in 4 nights)…

But they have to make due with what they have, and they didn’t do that on Tuesday night.

DeKeyser offered this take on the absences of Bertuzzi and Larkin while speaking with Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff

“Anytime you’re without those guys, those are some of your workhorses,” DeKeyser said. “Tonight we were not able to find other ways to produce offense. Whether those guys are in or not, we gotta try to find ways to score goals and try to be in games.”

And if we’re going to end this entry on a positive note, you and I will have to look at the Red Wings’ goaltending as a positive going into an incredibly difficult stretch of games–10 to played over the course of 17 nights:

A continuing bright spot on an otherwise forgettable night was the performance of Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. Many of his 38 saves were high end. Had it not been for his work between the pipes, Montreal could’ve easily matched the output of the 6-1 win posted over the Wings on October 23.

“Coming into this building again, it was kind of same story as last time,” DeKeyser said. “Ned held us in there tonight. It could’ve been a lot worse.”

Nedeljkovic is showing a .930 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average over his last four appearances. “Ever since the last part of the game against Chicago until now he’s started to find his groove a little bit,” Blashill said. “I thought he played real well and certainly kept us in the game.”

Greiss is 3-and-2 with a 3.11 goals-against average, which isn’t great, but his save percentage is .905 and improving.

Honestly, what the Red Wings need to worry about the most right now is their inability to find secondary scoring–both up front and on defense–with the Wings’ special teams play as their other major concern.

All in all, being 4-4-and-2 is fairly good, given that the Red Wings are a work in progress, but nights like these against the Canadiens, bad luck in Montreal or no bad luck in Montreal, and lack of primary scorers or not, are going to sting.

May it always be so.


Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:15 highlight clip: posted a 9:09 highlight clip:

Post-game: The Canadiens posted clips of comments from Josh Anderson…

Michael Pezzetta…

Jake Allen…

Nick Suzuki…

And coach Dominique Ducharme:

The Red Wings posted a 1:20 clip of Danny DeKeyser and coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks:

The Free Press posted a 4:06 clip of Blashill’s post-game remarks:

Bally Sports Detroit posted a 2:08 clip of DeKeyser’s remarks:

Update: Bally Sports Detroit posted Trevor Thompson’s interview with coach Blashill as well:

Photos: The Free Press posted a 16-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 10-image gallery;

The Montreal Gazette posted a 16-image gallery; posted a 46-image gallery;

Statistics: Here are the Game Summary and Event Summary:

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.