The Red Wings were back on the ice after the Christmas break against the New Jersey Devils.  The Devils were predicted by many to be a bottom feeder this season but found themselves atop the Metropolitan Division at 47 points in 35 games coming into tonight’s game.  The Red Wings, on the other hand, entered tonight’s game with 33 points in  in 35 games which places them 6th in the Atlantic Division. They are coming off of back to back regulation losses to the Flyers and Bruins.  

The Rundown

Both teams started out the first period slowly after the break, but the Devils quickly picked things up.  Larkin and Bertuzzi both played well at the start of the game and created the only chances Detroit could muster.  The Devils line of Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, and Jesper Bratt took over whenever they were on the ice.  

Finally, a Mike Green turnover led to the first goal.  The puck was given away at neutral ice and Hall played a beautiful saucer pass over to defenseman Steven Santini who fired a shot through a screen that was redirected in by Hischier. 

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The Red Wings’ power play would get a chance as Tomas Tatar drew a Devils’ penalty.  Larkin had a point blank chance off of a turnover but Cory Schneider denied him.  The rest of the power play was ugly as the Wings could not drum up any sustained pressure.

A Darren Helm turnover created a second New Jersey goal. He lost the puck just inside the Wings’ blue line and Bratt fed it to Hall who looked off Howard and slid the puck over to Hischier who finished off a pretty one-timer.  

The Wings were bad in the first period.  They were outshot 13-7 and had virtually zero sustained offensive zone time. My big takeaway from the first was that Taylor Hall is really good.  He should be in the conversation with players like Kane, Tarasenko, Kucherov, and Marchand for the best winger in the NHL.

The Devils came out of the gate fast in the second, but Howard was on his game.  He made a couple of key saves to start the period including a pad-stack save on Travis Zajac. Larkin and Bertuzzi were in on a chance early in the second and Daley and Nielsen had successive point blank shots saved by Schneider off of a turnover created by Andreas Athanasiou.

The Red Wings found the back of the net on a goal from Justin Abdelkader.  Bertuzzi held possession of the puck early in the shift and it eventually found its way to Larkin in the corner.  Larkin gave the puck to Bertuzzi who fed it to Abdelkader and he finished it off with a strong shot to the short side to notch his sixth of the season.  This was Tyler Bertuzzi’s first career NHL point. 

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The Wings then went back on the power play twice near the end of the second.  The first was more of the same – no zone time and disorganized play.  Larkin created a good chance that drew the second power play of the period.  This one was much better as both units created chances and held the zone well.

Overall, the second period was much better for the Red Wings as they outshot the Devils 14-10.  Howard was strong, Daley made a couple of nice plays to jump into the rush and create some offense, and both Larkin and Bertuzzi continued their strong nights.

The third period started and the Wings were quickly given their fourth power play of the night.  It started with a good chance on a Frk one-timer.  The rest of the power play was ugly.  Back at 5-on-5 play, Larkin and Athanasiou hooked up for a nice rush but Schneider stood tall.  The Devils then took a too many men on the ice penalty to give Detroit its fifth power play of the night.  This power play was much better as Zetterberg’s unit held the puck in the offensive zone and created chances the whole two minutes but Schneider was up to the task.

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Larkin next found Athanasiou on a stretch pass, but the puck was stripped from Athanasiou at the last second before he could get a shot away and Larkin took a penalty trying to retrieve the puck.  Abdelkader had a great chance on the penalty kill off of a feed from Nielsen but Schneider made a huge glove save.

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The Wings went back onto the kill with about 4 minutes left in the game.  This seemed like the perfect time for Coach Blashill to put Athanasiou and Larkin on the ice together to try and create a goal, but Blashill stayed conservative and went with Abdelkader instead of Athanasiou.  

The Wings killed the penalty off but couldn’t get the puck out of their zone for a good 30 seconds at full strength. Athanasiou’s stick broke on a shot attempt and the puck found its way to Sami Vatanen.  He sent the puck all the way down the ice into the Wings’ empty net to end the game with the Devils winning 3-1.

The Wings were extremely inconsistent tonight as they have been all season.  They started out with a weak first period, then turned it up in the second half of the game.  The Red Wings are simply not talented enough to play 30 minutes of good hockey and win.  This was a game that a good team would have won. 

Motor City MVP

I wanted to give this to Bertuzzi as he played his best game as a Red Wing, but this has to be Larkin.  As he has been all season, he was the Wings’ best player.  He is becoming a true playmaker (something he didn’t show at all last season) as he set up players all over the ice for chances.  He was very good coming back defensively as well.

Next Up

Detroit takes on the New York Rangers on Friday.  They will need to bring their A game as the Rangers have been among the league’s best teams since their slow start to the season. Brock Seguin will have the pregame report on Wingsnation.com.