Zetterberg drives Wings with inspired play
Vancouver, British Columbia — They talked about it after two periods, about how all this was unacceptable and not Red Wings-like at all.
It was shocking to see how meekly the Red Wings were losing Saturday night in Vancouver.
But the message got through during the final 20 minutes in regulation time, then overtime, and the Red Wings salvaged what was looking to be a very grim road trip with a 3-2 overtime win over the Canucks.
The Red Wings ended a four-game winless streak, and possibly realized how it is they need to play to be successful.
“Losing four in a row shouldn’t happen for this team,” said Gustav Nyquist, who scored the winner in overtime after getting a great outlet pass from goalie Petr Mrazek, himself a big part of this victory. “It’s not acceptable. The last four games showed that, it’s not how we play as a team.
“We addressed that (in the second intermission) and guys really showed up in the third.”
Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Tatar (power play) scored third-period goals, Mrazek made 30 saves total, but it may have been the example from captain Henrik Zetterberg that was most crucial.
Zetterberg had one assist, but the way he played almost 25 gutsy, determined minutes was inspiring in coach Jeff Blashill’s mind.
“Henrik Zetterberg, from the drop of the puck, was the one guy who was competing and battling at a champion level and the rest of the team followed suit in the third period,” Blashill said. “Our competitive level and battle level rose to the level it has to be to be successful.”
Said Tatar: “He’s a great leader. He did the right thing the whole game. He was the only guy who played all three periods and that’s how a captain should be. He’s a great leader and we have a lot to learn from him.”
And there was plenty to learn from this three-game western Canadian road trip in which the Red Wings earned three of six points (1-1-1 record) but struggled to put together 60 consistent minutes.
But at least now, the Red Wings have a reference point as to what it takes to be successful. More to the point, how passionate they have to play to be successful.
“Confidence is a big thing, and winning breeds confidence,” Blashill said. “Our guys came out and played hard in the third period and played at the level it takes. I give a lot of that credit to Hank and the approach he took.
“The big part about coming together as a team is growing as a team. You have to learn from adversity. We showed ourselves the battle level we can play at and how we have to play. We have to hold ourselves to those standards.”
For sure the first two periods against Vancouver, in which the Red Wings were outshot 23-11 and bumped off the puck during every battle, wasn’t good enough.
“We knew we didn’t play good enough,” Tatar said. “We didn’t put enough effort the last few games. It gets you mad, for sure. We stepped up and showed we can play hockey.”
Mrazek was a huge key in the victory.
Along with 30 saves, many of them highlight-type saves, Mrazek also made the outlet pass to spring Nyquist during the 3-on-3 overtime.
“Mrazek kept us in the game, for sure,” Nyquist said. “He made some unbelievable saves in the first five minutes. We just kept turning the puck over, they came out flying, and Mrazek made some huge saves.”
Mrazek could see the Red Wings transform into a differnet team in the final period and overtime.
“Too many turnovers, we talked about it (in the intermission) about what could happen if we play better,” Mrazek said of the sloppy play. “It’s huge a victory for us. We had four games we didn’t win. Last game on the trip. it’s nice to have the two points.”
Said Tatar: “He stood strong the whole game. He was terrific. That’s what we need from him.”
It took until this past weekend but the Red Wings finally got to experience the new 3-on-3 overtime format — on consecutive nights in Calgary (the Red Wings lost) and Vancouver (where they won).
It seems like everyone is still adjusting.
“We’re all learning,” Blashill said. “You want to stay fresh and change when you can change at possession.
“What I like about it, it comes down to the players, man on man, and it’s unbelieveable to watch.”
The Red Wings should know more about their injury situation in the next couple of days.
Kyle Quincey (concussion) and Mike Green (upper body) are expected to get updates in the next couple of days.
Brad Richards (back) will see a doctor early this week to determine the extent of his continuing discomfort.