Detroit — The Red Wings talked about being tougher in front of their opponents’ goal, thinking that might get them the successful finishes on their scoring chances that they have been desperately seeking for weeks.
Three fairly close-in goals by Tomas Tatar, the free-agent defenseman Mike Green, and Dylan Larkin, and some nice goaltending by Petr Mrazek delivered a 3-2 win against a hot Los Angeles Kings team Friday.
The Kings entered play on a three-game winning streak, 7-3 in their last 10 and on top of the Pacific Division. And with the Wings scoring three goals only once in their previous eight games, the reaction to the win in the dressing room afterward was happy relief, and perhaps a sense that things are coming together.
Green’s first goal as a member of the Red Wings, after he battled through two injuries since his big acquisition in the off-season — the offensive-minded, right-handed shooting defenseman the franchise had sought for three years — was clearly a big deal.
He pinched in perfectly from the point to convert a rebound, breaking a 1-1 tie at 3:45 of the second period.
“Yeah, I just kind of followed in there, seeing that it was a loose puck, and their guy kind of whacked it right to me, and I was able to put it in,” Green said.
Asked if his joyous smile in celebration was in part relief, after he collected six assists and no goals in his first 13 games, Green said, “Yeah, a little bit.”
“I’ve been kind of concentrating on trying to shoot the puck more and, you know, at least get something created. So, it felt good today.”
Coach Jeff Blashill liked what he saw, but said it is no surprise and that he expects a lot more offense from Green as the season goes on.
“He’s got good offensive instincts, for sure,” Blashill said. “So he knows when there’s a lane to jump, he jumps. Obviously, he smelled a little blood there on the goal that he scored where he crouched down near the net and was able to get the rebound.
“I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg for him. I think he’s going to continue to get better and better as he gets more and more comfortable.”
The scorer of yet another winning goal, Larkin was not available after the game. He injured himself in the third period, when he tried to turn back toward his own zone for defensive purposes during a sudden transition in play.
His right leg appeared to buckle, and he cried out in pain and hit the ice.
Larkin was able to put some pressure on it, as he drifted back to the bench and walked immediately up the tunnel.
He returned and finished the game. But was taking treatment afterwards.
Because the incident was slightly behind the play, few Wings seemed to see it from their bench, nor did the coach.
“I didn’t actually see it great,” Blashill said. “I saw it quick. I knew there was some kind of lower body thing, but he was able to return.”
All in all, Blashill liked that his team seemed more competitive directly in front of the Kings goalie, Jhonas Enroth. The Wings have been working on their net-front presence, trying to end a scoring droight that has affected them much of this season.
“I thought we were certainly harder in front of their net,” the coach said. “We haven’t been hard enough at their net, and I thought we did better with that tonight.”
Tomas Tatar opened the scoring on a power play at 14:10 of the first period, standing right on top of Enroth’s crease and taking a deft pass from Justin Abdelkader after Henrik Zetterberg fed it off the right sideboards.
“For sure, it was a big two points,” Tatar said. “It was good teamwork. I think we were battling out there, we stayed in front and we were battling around the creases, and we get the two points.
“We were missing those (goals), and we were glad they came tonight. We battled in the crease and got second and third chances.”
Blashill said he thought the team had played better defensively in recent games, than against the big, red hot Kings.
“Maybe some of that was them,” he said. “They’re a really good hockey team. I think it’s good for us to measure ourselves against other great teams in the league, to see where we stand. We came up with two points.”
The victory moved the Wings into third place in the Atlantic Division.
Blashill, Zetterberg and others credited Mrazek with a few big stops that probably saved the victory.
The second goal he allowed by Jeff Carter, which cut a 3-1 lead to 3-2, was clearly quirky and perhaps a bit soft.
Carter cut an angle that allowed him to use Kronwall as screen. When he shot the puck, the Kings’ forward clipped the blade of Kronwall’s stick, and the puck fluttered all the way to the net.
Bringing his trapper down, Mrazek was able to get only a piece of the knuckleball after it got through a screen.
“I think Petr does a real good job of battling, and when he lets in a tough goal — the second one was a tough one — you know, it doesn’t faze him at all,” Blashill said. “He just keeps playing.
“And that’s probably been his greatest strength: He has no memory for that stuff, at all.”