Red Wings-Sharks wrap-up: Shorthanded prowess, pluck, determination afford revamped Wings a needed victory

The Detroit Red Wings won a 6-2 decision over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, earning their first victory in 3 tries during the 2022 year.

The Red Wings’ victory didn’t come easily: while Tyler Bertuzzi opened the scoring at even strength, ten minutes after a Givani Smith fight stirred the crowd up, Smith then took a major penalty (and a questionable one at that) because his shoulder glanced the chin of his earlier fighting partner, Jake Middleton, at 18:16 of the 1st period.

Detroit managed to kill the first 1:44 of the power play, and they settled in for the 2nd period’s kill…Or so we thought. As it turned out, the Red Wings generated three tremendous scoring chances on the major penalty to Smith, and two of them–shots by Pius Suter and Tyler Bertuzzi–went past James Reimer, breaking the game open.

The Sharks “got one back” 4 minutes into the 2nd period, drawing to within 3-1, but the Suter would score again just short of the game’s halfway point, and when the Sharks brought the score to within 4-2 early in the 3rd period, Detroit quickly responded with a pair of goals on Aidan Hill, yielding that lop-sided 6-2 score.

Detroit and San Jose will meet again in a week, and for the Sharks, who sat long-time veteran Marc-Edouard Vlasic as a “message” to the team’s defense–and were without Logan Couture due to COVID protocols–they’re going to be chewing on and stewing about this game for the entirety of that week.

The Sharks understandably grumbled about their loss to the Mercury News’s Curtis Pashelka:

“We lost the game in the five-minute power play when they scored two short-handed goals,” [Sharks coach Bob] Boughner said. “You can’t go down 3-0 when you’ve got a five-minute power play. That’s your chance to make a difference in the game, set the tone, and get the game back to even, and actually, the opposite happened.”

The Sharks received the five-minute power play after Detroit’s Givani Smith was given a major penalty for boarding and game misconduct for a hit from behind on defensemen Jake Middleton with 1:44 left in the first period. Middleton left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return.

“We’re gonna have to wait and see how he feels (Wednesday),” Boughner said, “because he’s not feeling very good right now.”

Alexander Barabanov scored at the 1:40 mark of the third period to get the Sharks within two, but the Red Wings responded with two goals on its first four shots on goalie Adin Hill. Hill relieved James Reimer, who allowed four goals on 24 shots in the first two periods, although he again received little help from the skaters in front of him.

The Sharks have now allowed 28 goals in their last five games, which includes an 8-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.

“It’s really embarrassing what we showed in the second,” period, Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said. “It changed the momentum of the game. It’s on us. It’s a tough feeling because (Reimer) was so good all season. The last two games we didn’t help him at all.”

Coach Boughner also told the Associated Press that he felt his goaltender wasn’t the issue on Bertuzzi’s first goal:

Bertuzzi had the only first-period goal on a backhander from the side of the net. The shot glanced off Reimer’s stick and through his legs.

”That first goal was a fluke,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. ”It took some wind out of our sails.”

Detroit forward Givani Smith was penalized five minutes for boarding and given a game misconduct after a hit against defenseman Jacob Middleton late in the first period. Middleton suffered a head injury and did not return.

Rather than providing San Jose an advantage, Suter scored on a breakaway and Bertuzzi added a goal off a feed from Carter Rowney during the Sharks’ extended power play.

”The deeper you get into a penalty kill like that, the more momentum it gives your team and the more it takes away from the other team,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. ”They didn’t get many good chances early, which got us feeling better about ourselves, and then we get the two goals. I don’t think we were trying to attack more than normal on the penalty kill, but we blocked some shots and got sticks in the lane. That’s how you get chances short-handed and we happened to put two of them away.”

Detroit hadn’t scored two short-handed goals on the same penalty kill since Dec. 17, 1999, against Colorado.

And NBC Sports California’s Taylor Wirth spoke with Reimer and coach Boughner regarding the Sharks’ shorthanded status:

Unfortunately for the Sharks, they are without one of their best offensive weapons in Logan Couture and Mario Ferraro who are both in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.  Because Tuesday night’s loss was so ugly, the Sharks couldn’t even use the shorthanded excuse even if they wanted to. 

“Obviously those guys are leaders and heart-and-soul guys,” Reimer said. “But at the end of the day, it shouldn’t change how we play and the way we execute. If we were losing 2-1 then we could say that it would be nice to have [Logan Couture’s] scoring ability. Maybe we can use that as an excuse but we obviously couldn’t even if that was the case.”

The fact of the matter is that the Sharks are not the only team in the NHL — and all of professional sports — who are dealing with this issue. In times like these, there are no excuses, just creative solutions. The Sharks are not one of the league’s elite teams, they do not have the luxury of not missing a beat when faced with adversity.

“If you look around there’s some teams that are sputtering in the West,” Bougher said postgame. “Edmonton, Minnesota, us, I think it’s a tough part of the season where you’ve gotta dig in, gotta find different ways to win. A lot of teams are dealing with guys in and out of their lineup with COVID and we’re no different. We’ve gotta come together and that’s the coach’s job and the leader’s job in the room to settle the ship and get out of this. Some teams can lose three or four players and they don’t miss a beat and they’re elite teams. We’re not and that means we all have to come together and try and find a little more, play a little smarter and a little harder and that didn’t happen.”

The Sharks will travel to Buffalo to face off against the Sabres on Thursday and then to Philadelphia to face the Flyers on Saturday before returning home for a four-game homestand. 

That home-stand begins against the Red Wings on Tuesday, January 11th.

Again, Hertl agreed with his coach’s assessment that the Sharks’ gaffes on their power play were the culprit that did San Jose in, as he told NHL.com’s Dave Hogg:

“We went into the second period with four minutes left on the power play, expecting to change the momentum in our favor, and then give up two goals,” Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said. “That’s embarrassing.”

San Jose (17-16-1) played without captain Logan Couture, who went into COVID-19 protocol earlier in the day. James Reimer allowed four goals on 24 shots before being replaced by Adin Hill for the third period. Hill made five saves on seven shots.

“We’re frustrated because we’re competitors and we don’t like losing,” Reimer said. “We especially don’t like losing big, but we have to let this sting a bit and then come back tomorrow and work on things.”

Jasper Weatherby tipped in a Brent Burns shot to cut the lead to 3-1 at 4:03, but Suter made it 4-1 at 9:32.

Alexander Barabanov pulled San Jose within 4-2 at 1:40 of the third, but Dylan Larkin (3:51) and Robby Fabbri (5:01) scored 1:10 apart for the 6-2 final.

“[Larkin’s] goal was a huge moment in the hockey game,” Blashill said. “It was 4-2, and if they get another one, now we’re having to grind out a one-goal game, but at 5-2 we knew we had a chance to put them away.”

For the Red Wings, who also lost Carter Rowney later in the game due to a lower-body issue, the victory pulled Detroit’s record to 16-15-and-3, and, somewhat ironically, it came without Filip Zadina as well. Zadina was consciously scratched by Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted, to send a message:

“I guess what happens when you want to insert somebody into the lineup you have to take somebody out,” Blashill said after the 6-2 win at Little Caesars Arena. ” And it’s honestly sometimes as simple as that.”

Coaches generally don’t change winning lineups, but forward Carter Rowney left in the third period with an injury, so that may mean a short spell in the doghouse for Zadina.

Pulling Zadina enabled a number of changes: Givani Smith was inserted into the lineup, and Michael Rasmussen moved up to play on the second line with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri. Rasmussen had his best game in a month, earning an assist on Suter’s second goal. 

Rasmussen looked really, really, really good on the wing. I was impressed as heck by his effort.

Zadina, the No. 6 pick in 2018, was highly touted for his shot, but he has struggled to be effective at the NHL level. He has 47 points in 118 career games. He’s 22 and there’s certainly still time for him to figure things out, but it’s disappointing that he was such an easy candidate to be pulled.

“What Filip wants to do is put himself so he’s not in the mix of players we’re talking about in who goes out,” Blashill said. “Ultimately if you don’t want to come out, put yourself in so you’re not in the mix. We don’t talk about that with Tyler Bertuzzi or Dylan Larkin because of what they’ve established themselves as players. I don’t think it hurts a guy once in a while to hit the reset button, kind of take some pressure off and then go get it. When Z comes back in the lineup, I’m hoping he can come back charging and playing really good hockey.”

Coach Blashill told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan that his team finally gave a strong performance after a difficult set of games against Washington and Boston:

“I definitely saw a sense of urgency from our team,” said coach Jeff Blashill, who didn’t feel the same way after Sunday’s loss against Boston. “We had a little bit of a slow start, then after we got playing, we played a pretty good hockey game. We did a lot of things right. We gapped and tracked hard which allowed us to take the game to them a little bit. We didn’t give them much space. We battled hard and competed from a physical standpoint. There were a lot of good things there.”

Coming off  that a disappointing loss Sunday – not to mention a last-minute loss Friday to Washington – the Wings wanted something positive with an upcoming three-game road trip through California beginning Thursday.

The Sharks were a perfect tonic. San Jose lost 8-5 in Pittsburgh Sunday, allowing six goals in the first period, and found out earlier in the day star forward Logan Couture was placed on the protocol list. The Wings took advantage, rebounding with a better effort in many areas.

“It’s just a good feeling,” Suter said. “Everybody playing their own games and everybody gets going makes it much easier.”

The Red Wings came into Tuesday night’s game having lost 6 of their previous 8 efforts, so their offensive outburst was more than welcome–it was due:

“You come out of the break and score one goal and one goal, confidence matters,” Blashill said. “When you’re able to get six, it helps guys, helps them feel good about themselves and confidence can lead to more offense.”

For a Wings’ team that was teetering a bit after the weekend losses, this game was a needed and necessary.

“We talked again before the game of the importance of this game and making sure to a man we play our best hockey,” Blashill said. “That’s what it takes as much as anything else. And to a man, we played pretty good hockey. There were a number of guys that played real good.”

Among Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen’s “Five Takeaways” are the following…

The Detroit Red Wings had gone 100 games without scoring a shorthanded goal before Pius Suter scored one early in the second period. That was followed by another shorthanded tally 37 seconds later by Tyler Bertuzzi.

Special teams have hurt the Red Wings too many times this season. But in this game, the Red Wings’  five-minute penalty kill was the turning point of the game.

“That’s a critical moment in the game,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said.

They impressively killed off a five-minute major penalty to Givani Smith and produced two shorthanded goals. It was the first time the Red Wings scored two shorthanded goals on a single penalty since 1999.

Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan said after last game that the Red Wings needed more “pushback” when teams play physical against them. Smith took it upon himself to be more physical than he has been recently. That included a fight.

The Red Wings played a much feistier game than they had played in their 5-1 loss to the Bruins.

“We didn’t give them much space at all,” Blashill said. “We battled hard. I thought we competed from a physical standpoint. So there was a lot of things there.”

And DetroitRedWings.com’s Jonathan Mills will take us out with a series of quips from Blashill and Suter:

Suter on if the Red Wings received the message to be more physical after their loss to the Bruins: “Yeah, for sure. Especially with a lead like that, you got to step up for each other and I think we did a good job.”

Suter on the momentum Detroit can build from Tuesday’s victory: “Yeah, huge. It’s, you know, a lot of energy in the arena. People having fun, we’re having fun, so it gives you that extra kick.”

Suter on how he sees his own game improving: “It’s gotten better, I think. A little bit more wins in battles. You know, sometimes you play less but then somehow you get points so it’s kind of in between. Some games I feel like I didn’t play well, but I still got points.”

Jeff Blashill on sense of urgency: “I definitely saw a sense of urgency from our team. I thought we had a little bit of a slow start. Then after, once we got playing, I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. I thought we did a lot of things right.”

Blashill on the effort he saw from his players: “We talked again, before the game, just about the importance of the game and making sure that we, to a man, needed to play our best hockey. And ultimately, that’s what it takes as much as anything else. I thought, to a man, we played pretty good hockey. I thought there was a number of guys who played really good.”

Suter was perhaps the Red Wings’ best player, and he was used on the power play, on the penalty-kill, he was used to win defensive zone faceoffs, and he’s scored goals of late. He’s become the Swiss Army Knife that the Red Wings hoped he’d be as a second-line center when they signed him away from Chicago as a free agent, and his work with Rasmussen and Fabbri afforded the Red Wings’ third line of Erne, Namestnikov and Veleno to play both more physically and no less offensively adept.

In its own weird way, the Zadina scratch helped the roster fall into place, and Filip is anything but washed up at 22 years of age, but he’s going to find himself looking for a real home in a lineup that was spectacular without him.

Update: Here’s a little more from MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“(Michael Rasmussen) played a really good game, as good a game as he’s played in a while,” Blashill said. “Suits played good. I thought a number of guys really stepped up and played better hockey. We got a number of guys coming off long layoffs from COVID. Adam Erne, the first two games back weren’t his best, but I thought he played way better tonight. (Dylan Larkin) has been really good out of the break. Nick Leddy (who returned this week from COVID protocol) was off 16 days and I thought he came in and played a pretty good game.”

Rasmussen made a good pass to set up Suter’s second goal after moving from third-line center to the wing on the line with Suter and Robby Fabbri.

“I think Ras all season has competed extremely hard, has worked extremely hard,” Blashill said. “He’s very driven to be a great player. He’s had some defensive lapses at times at center. So, I wanted to take a little bit of pressure off him tonight, give him the opportunity to play wing, be hard at the net, be physical. It’s hard to be constantly on the net when you’re a center because you’re thinking about getting back, so that’s one of his best attributes offensively. It also gave Joe Veleno a look up the lineup (third-line center), which we wanted to do as well.”

Again, regarding Zadina’s scratch…

“When you want to insert someone in the lineup (Smith) you have to take somebody out,” Blashill said. “I don’t think it ever hurts a guy once in a while to hit the reset button, kind of take some pressure off and just go get it. When Z gets back in the lineup, I’m hoping he can come back charged up and play real good hockey.”

Smith ended up logging only four shifts and 2:32 of ice time but made an impact, registering three shots on goal and getting the better of Middleton in a fight less than three minutes into the game.

“He was good,” Blashill said. “He fought, he hit. … I actually thought in the little bit he played, he played with poise, he played strong, he battled hard, so I was happy with those couple minutes of ice time.”

Multimedia:

Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:16 highlight clip:

NHL.com posted an 8:57 highlight clip:

Post-game:

The Sharks posted post-game comments from Brent Burns…

Tomas Hertl…

James Reimer…


And coach Bob Boughner:

On the Red Wings’ side, Pius Suter spoke for 5:34, per WXYZ’s Brad Galli:

And coach Jeff Blashill spoke for 10:34:

The Red Wings distilled Suter and Blashill’s remarks down to 4:04:

Photos: The Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 22-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 36-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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