Detroit — The playoffs are a bleaker proposition for the Red Wings heading into the All-Star break.
They went into this week with two games against teams in front of them in the standings — and came away with one point.
And the Red Wings didn’t earn that point Wednesday, incidentally, as they were dominated by Toronto 4-0.
The Red Wings earned one point the evening before in Boston, losing in overtime, and that just wasn’t enough overall in a tightly-packed division race.
“It was a big game and we lost the game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to on the All-Star break and come back and prepare Monday to win a hockey game.
“We have to keep grinding and finding a way. The one thing I do believe in this locker room is our ability to grind. We’ve got some of the best leaders that have been in this league in a long time.”
The Maple Leafs (23-14-9) moved six points ahead of the Red Wings (20-20-9) — and Toronto has played three fewer games.
“I’m not worried about them,” Blashill said. “All I know is we’ve got to be a little bit better, I know that.”
Wednesday was the seventh time the Red Wings have been shut out this season.
“We’re working hard to get our chances but we can’t find a way to put it behind the goalie,” Zetterberg said.
The Red Wings only generated 22 shots on Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen.
“We couldn’t get a lot of things going,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
Rookie phenom Auston Matthews, Roman Polak, James van Riemsdyk and Nikita Soshnikov scored for Toronto.
Matthews, June’s No. 1 overall pick, opened the scoring in dazzling fashion.
The line of Matthews, Zach Hyman (Michigan) and Connor Brown did a nice job pressuring the Red Wings, with Matthews the beneficiary of several quality scoring chances.
On the third Matthews converted, a beautiful backhand from the hashmarks over goalie Petr Mrazek (24 saves) for his 23rd goal at 5:30 of the first period.
“He’s big, strong, has a good shot, passes the puck, he’s going to be a good player for many, many years,” Zetterberg said.
The Red Wings went on the power play shortly after, but as has been the case too often this season, generated nothing offensively.
They had two power plays and, as usual, no goals.
“It’s frustrating,” Kronwall said. “But in the end of the day we have to look forward.”
Anthony Mantha had the period’s best scoring chance, on a drive to the net, and hit the post.
Mantha’s playing time dwindled the last two games, falling under 10 minutes Tuesday in Boston in a game in which Blashill said he wasn’t pleased with his play.
But Mantha played 15:39 Wednesday, was credited with the one shot, was a minus-1, and had two giveaways.
Blashill wasn’t thinking about the past, and the Red Wings’ weakening position in the standings, after the loss.
“I’m worried about moving forward here,” Blashill said.