Red Wings-Blues wrap-up: Nedeljkovic back-stops Wings to .500 mark at Thanksgiving

The Detroit Red Wings sit at 9-9-and-3 at the American Thanksgiving break no thanks in large part to an Alex Nedeljkovic-led 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday evening.

The second and third periods were chock full of saves like these…

And maybe that’s not great given that the Red Wings were out-shot 37-23 overall by the still particularly plucky Blues, but the Red Wings rather desperately needed to snap their 0-3-and-1 streak while facing a still-championship-caliber Blues team–without Marc Staal, Danny DeKeyser, or, for the latter stages of the game, Joe Veleno–and the Red Wings got the job done.

As you might imagine, our friends from St. Louis were frustrated with the number of quality scoring chances that didn’t end up behind Alex Nedeljkovic, as they told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas:

“Tough loss,” said Jordan Kyrou, who assisted on both Blues goals, increasing his team-high point total to 20 (eight goals, 12 assists). “We had a ton of Grade A chances. Their goalie just made some unbelievable saves.”

What’s better than a Grade A chance? Maybe Grade AA? Whatever you call it, the Blues had buckets of them Wednesday. And they had all kinds of zone time. There were significant stretches where the Blues looked like they were on the power play – even when they weren’t on one of their three power plays.

But they couldn’t crack Nedeljkovic, who after a strong 2020-21 season in Carolina (15-5-3, 1.90 goals-against) couldn’t come to a contract agreement with the Hurricanes as a restricted free agent and was traded to Detroit.

“You gotta give the goalie credit,” captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “He did make some great saves.”

“Hat’s off to the goalie,” coach Craig Berube said.

“I thought we beared down (on scoring chances),” Berube said. “I thought the guys shot the puck and we attacked. The plays were there. We could’ve at least had five or six goals tonight. We didn’t, so hats off to the goalie.”

“You could feel the zone time,” O’Reilly said. “We were getting in there and we were tiring ‘em out, wearing them down. I look at it for myself, personally, I’m not producing at all right now which is tough. That’s a game where you’re trying something to kind of spark it, and break that ‘tender and go from there.”

Coach Berube continued while speaking with NHL.com’s Dave Hogg

“That’s one of those games where you just have to tip your hat to the goaltender,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We could have easily had five or six goals tonight — we created enough chances, and we got the shots we needed — he was just that good.”

Robby Fabbri, who played his first 164 NHL games for St. Louis, including winning the Stanley Cup in 2019, had a goal and an assist in his first game against his former team.

“It was awesome to see [Fabbri] get a goal tonight,” Nedeljkovic said. “That’s where he started his career, and he had a really special run there. It was awesome for him to finish it off.”

Dylan Larkin also had a goal and an assist for the Red Wings (9-9-3), who were returning from a 0-3-1 road trip.

“This gets us back to [.500] and we have a chance to build on that on Saturday (against the Buffalo Sabres),” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “You don’t want to drop below that level, and now we have a number of games at home (four of next five) to get some points.”

Pavel Buchnevich and David Perron scored for St. Louis (10-7-2), which has lost two of its past three games and six of its past eight (2-5-1). Ville Husso made 19 saves.

“I thought we played a really good game,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said. “We just didn’t get the results we wanted.”

Coach Blashill was more emphatic while speaking with the Associated Press:

”This can be a building block,” coach Jeff Blashill said. ”It’s not the mark we’re striving for, but this allows us to go out and hopefully put something together.”

Making his second straight start, Nedeljkovic turned in several highlight-reel stops – including a sprawling glove save with 13:05 left to preserve a one-goal lead.

”We made the plays – we could have easily had five or six goals, but you just have to take your hat off to (Nedeljkovic),” Blues coach Craig Berube said. ”You have games like this, where you throw everything at the net and nothing goes in.”

Pavel Buchnevich and David Perron scored for the Blues, who were playing with a full and healthy roster for the first time this season. Perron’s goal snapped a 13-game scoreless drought.

It was the sixth loss in eight games for the Blues, who fell to 10-7-2 and are tied for second place in the Central Division.

”We played a really solid game, but we needed to finish some of our chances,” forward Jordan Kyrou said. ”We were all over them in the offensive zone, but we needed a couple bounces and (Nedeljkovic) played a great game.”

Fabbri had two points against his former team, including an empty-net goal to seal the win. It was the first time the Red Wings center faced the Blues since being traded to Detroit on Nov. 6, 2019.

”(Fabbri) is a really passionate person, and I know he wanted to win this game,” Blashill said. ”I was glad he got rewarded with that empty-netter.”

Nedeljkovic himself was just happy to play the helper’s role, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan

“When you win you’re always happy and in a better mood,” said Nedeljkovic, who had 35 saves and was a third-period star. “We still have some areas we need to clean up a little bit. They were getting a few too many chances that we can’t have on a night-to-night basis. But regardless, a win is a win. Especially after a road trip we slipped up a little bit (four winless games).”

Lucas Raymond and Dylan Larkin added Wings goal as Detroit moved back to .500 (9-9-3) on the season.

Nedeljkovic preserved the 3-2 lead with a diving, sprawling save on a rebound by the Blues’ Marco Scandella that got the LCA crowd roaring. He keyed killing two Blues power plays midway in the third period.

“For the guys, it’s just knowing I have their backs,” said Nedeljkovic of the third-period saves. “A few of them I was caught out of position. So just giving them confidence they can play their game and swagger, and if something slips up, I can come up with the save.”

David Perron tied it 2-2 for St. Louis (10-7-2) with his seventh goal, at 1:11 of the third period, on a bad angle goal that found a hole between the post and Nedeljkovic.

But Erne answered, and the Wings were able to keep the third-period lead, something they didn’t do in two road games last week.

“Those two games (in Columbus, Arizona), we let leads slip away and late goals tied it up. It’s always great when you can close out a good team like that (St. Louis),” Nedeljkovic said. “Just grinding it out to the very end. It’s not going to come easy, there’s no such thing as an easy night in this league. So for us to get a win like that, it’s huge and hopefully we can build some momentum.”

Coach Blashill made some interesting remarks after the game, as Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen noted, regarding the Wings’ overall defensive play…

“We gave up too many chances,” Blashill said. “We got loose in our own end. Gave some slot shots in the second but they weren’t prime-time chances. I wasn’t super-worried but then in the third I thought we gave up too many prime-time chances. That kind of kicks you back on your heels.”

Regarding the penalty-killing…

A first-period power play goal snapped Detroit’s streak of 19 successful penalty kills in a row. However,  the team killed off two St. Louis power plays in the third period.

“The PK definitely stepped up the past 2-3 weeks,” Alex Nedeljkovic said. “Even tonight, yeah they get that one in the first period but those were two big kills in the third there with the lead and trying to protect the lead. We didn’t really give them much of anything on them. It was definitely due to guys battling and laying out and sacrificing their bodies and committing to getting better on the penalty kill.

Holding a lead was a problem on the Red Wings’ recent 0-3-1 road trip. The Red Wings’ ability to hold off the Blues  power play in the critical third period should be a confidence booster.

“I think our guys know their responsibilities and I think we’re getting better within those responsibilities,” Blashill said. “We’re finding a little bit more ways to pressure.”

And he said this regarding Dylan Larkin, who scored his 10th goal of the season:

“Maybe (his neck) injury in some ways was good,” Blashill said of Larkin. “He’s such a worker and has such inner drive that maybe the injury gave him a chance to kind of sit back and refresh a little bit. I think from the beginning of the season he’s done an excellent job. That line was really good tonight in terms of their compete on the puck and they’ve been a big part of any wins that we’ve had. He looks definitely refreshed and energized.”

Blashill continued while speaking with the Free Press’s Helene St. James…

Larkin set up Raymond’s goal, then scored his own in the second period. Eyeing an opportunity by the net, Larkin cut to the low slot and whacked the puck behind Ville Husso. Larkin is on a six-game point streak, and has three multipoint games during the stretch. Larkin had a subpar 2021 season, with just nine goals and 23 points in 44 games; it ended when he suffered a scary neck injury. Larkin’s goal Wednesday was his 10th of the season, in just his 17th game.

“He was disappointed in his year last year and he kind of refreshed this summer,” Blashill said. “Maybe the injury in some way was good – he’s such a worker and he’s got such inner drive, and maybe the injury gave him a chance to just sit back and refresh a little bit. From the very beginning of the season, I think he’s done an excellent job.”

And he offered this regarding Lucas Raymond’s play of late:

With his goal in the first period, the 19-year-old Raymond became the second teenager in franchise history to collect his first 20 career points in 21 games or fewer, joining the man who drafted him: Steve Yzerman. He did it in 17 games in 1983-84. Raymond has six points the last six games.

“I was happy to see his game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought as the road trip went along he was starting to lose a little steam, so I was curious to see where he was at. I thought he came and had good energy. He’s smart, he’s hard and he’s competitive. Those are great qualities to have and that’s allowed him to have success.”

And we’ll wrap up our little survey of recaps with a revisiting of Nedeljkovic’s remarks via DetroitRedWings.com’s Jonathan Mills:

At the highest level of the sport, the Detroit Red Wings have learned playing hard doesn’t guarantee wins in the NHL.

But on Thanksgiving Eve, powered by the effort from goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit (9-9-3) snapped its four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues (10-7-2) at Little Caesars Arena.

Nedeljkovic was tested all night, especially during the third period. To the delight of the Red Wings faithful that were brought to their feet by his effort, the 25-year-old made many sprawling saves late in the game to preserve the Red Wings’ lead. He finished the night with 34 saves and a .944 save percentage.

“We’re in a good spot, I think. Obviously when you win, you’re always happy and always in a better mood,” Nedeljkovic said after the game. “The vibe in the room is always a lot better and I still think we have some areas we need to clean up a little bit. I think they were getting a few too many chances tonight that we can’t have on a night-to-night basis.”

The Red Wings get Thursday off, and they’ll practice on Friday before facing the Buffalo Sabres at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday; next week, they battle the Boston Bruins in Boston on Tuesday, and then come home to host the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday, which is the first day of December (already!).

Multimedia:

Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:20 highlight clip:

NHL.com posted a 9:09 highlight clip:

Post-game: Bally Sports Midwest posted post-game interviews with Robert Thomas…

Robert Thomas on the #stlblues‘ loss to the Red Wings: “A lot of chances and we generated a lot, but we’ve just got to find a way to put it in.” pic.twitter.com/uXDgC7nj4v— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) November 25, 2021

Jordan Kyrou…

Kyrou on the #stlblues‘ loss to the Red Wings: “We had a ton of grade-A chances, and their goalie just made some unbelievable saves.” pic.twitter.com/DO2gnoRJ7e— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) November 25, 2021

And coach Craig Berube:

Berube after the #stlblues‘ loss to the Red Wings: “I thought we played a heck of a game. I don’t have any feeling about our game in a negative way. We created a bunch of chances, (Nedeljkovic) played great, we didn’t finish good enough.” pic.twitter.com/zsZTuOevPB— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) November 25, 2021

The Blues posted a 5:07 combined clip of comments from Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly and coach Berube:

“There are good things that came out of that game and there’s things we still need to improve on.”

Hear from Jordan Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly and Craig Berube after Wednesday’s game in Detroit. pic.twitter.com/lA0JqqrA7B— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) November 25, 2021

Robby Fabbri spoke with Bally Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson after the game:

BSD also posted a 4:54 clip of Alex Nedeljkovic’s post-game presser…

And a 2:09 clip of coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game presser:

The Free Press’s Helene St. James posted a 7:08 clip of Nedeljkovic’s comments…

And WXYZ’s Brad Galli posted coach Blashill’s 6:28 post-game presser:

The Red Wings posted a 3:57 clip combining Nedeljkovic and Blashill’s remarks:

Photos: The Free Press posted a 5-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 12-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 55-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.

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