Detroit — They’ll enjoy the holidays, but the Red Wings will head into this break with some disappointment.
The New Jersey Devils scored three quick goals in the first period Tuesday and held on for a 4-3 victory over the Red Wings.
Detroit will head into the three-day NHL-wide break having won only once in the last five games (1-2-2) and twice in the last seven (2-2-3).
They did enough positive things in Tuesday’s game to maybe earn a victory, but ultimately made just enough mistakes to cost themselves points in the standings.
“Unfortunate bounces, or mistakes that you can’t afford to make,” coach Jeff Blashill said of what ultimately cost the Red Wings. “We had a lot of good stuff. But the result’s certainly not good enough, and guys understand that against a team we’re fighting for a playoff spot with.”
Riley Sheahan cut the Devils lead to 4-3 with his fourth goal at 14 minutes, 23 seconds of the third period, off a rush from the dot.
But the Red Wings weren’t able to get the tying goal, and Niklas Kronwall’s interference penalty with just under a minute left to play pretty much solidified the Devils victory.
“We had some unfortunate bounces in the first,” Sheahan said. “I don’t think we thought we played a brutal first period, we kind of got ourselves down, but we built ourselves out of it.
“Just some unfortunate bounces and maybe a bit relaxed play kind of caught us.”
Dylan Larkin and Mike Green added Red Wings power-play goals.
Having cut the New Jersey lead to 3-2, the Red Wings lost the momentum they had when a Jakub Kindl giveaway led to Devils forward Sergey Kalinin scoring at 2:24 of the third.
That restored the Devils’ two-goal lead and put the Red Wings into a steeper hole.
“You can’t afford to give up goals, basically giving chances or gifts,” Blashill said. “We had a couple of gifts and it’s tough to win against a good team like that.”
The Red Wings (17-10-7, 41 points) open a three-game road trip in Nashville Saturday, which is also a stretch of nine of 10 games away from Joe Louis Arena.
The Devils got goals by Kyle Palmieri (power play), Jordin Tootoo and David Schlemko, all in a span of 2:12, giving the Devils a 3-0 lead and sending goaltender Jimmy Howard to the showers.
Howard allowed three goals on six shots and was replaced by Petr Mrazek.
“You have to switch some momentum,” said Blashill. “Jimmy has been real good for us this year, but you get in those spots and we decided to make that decision.”
Palmieri opened the Devils’ flurry with his 14th goal.
Just moments after the teams completed a four-on-four, Palmieri got behind Larkin and Green and put back a rebound off the end boards past Howard at 12:05.
The Devils pushed it to 2-0 on Tootoo’s goal 42 seconds later, Tootoo redirecting a shot from defenseman Andy Greene (Trenton).
Schlemko made it 3-0, getting the puck on a drive to the net from Palmieri, and beat Howard just wide of his blocker at 14:17, Schlemko’s third goal, capping the Devils explosion.
“We did a lot of good stuff, we really did, but we gave up four goals on 17 shots and that’s not all on goaltending,” Blashill said. “You made some big mistakes if you limit a team to 17 shots.”
The Red Wings needed some sort of spark and they got one just before the period ended.
On their first power-play attempt of the evening, captain Henrik Zetterberg found Larkin near the top of the circle and Larkin scored his team-leading 13th goal with a shot that appeared to be deflected, fluttering past goalie Cory Schneider at 18:32.
“After the first period we came in and we felt if we kept playing like that, we had a good chance of winning,” Zetterberg said. “We’ll take a lot of good stuff (from this game) but you definitely want the two points going into the break.”
Some bad feeling developed between the teams late in the second period after Larkin was driven into the boards hard by defenseman John Moore.
Justin Abdelkader went after defenseman Damon Severson after Severson pushed Larkin behind the net, and a brief scrum developed, Abdelkader earning an extra two minutes for roughing.
Larkin went to the locker room for a brief amount of time, but quickly returned to the bench.
Blashill feels the rough treatment is something Larkin might have to deal with in the near future.
“He has to make sure he keeps his focus and we’ll have to do a good job of continuing to defend him,” Blashill said.