Detroit — A major theme surrounding the Red Wings for the past couple weeks has been the need to maintain the winning culture around the organization. This is an organization that’s made the playoffs 25 consecutive seasons — but chances of extending it to 26 are slim to none with three weeks left in the regular season.
So, if nothing else, coach Jeff Blashill wants this particular roster to keep grinding, working hard and winning.
One night after a disappointing loss to the league’s worst team, Colorado, Detroit showed some will in a 5-4 shootout victory over Arizona late Thursday.
“It was nice, first of all, to get the two points,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who had a goal and assist in the back-and-forth third period. “But also the way we did it.”
Much like against the Avalanche, the Red Wings had a fine start but only to see the Coyotes rally with two quick goals to take the lead. But Tomas Tatar’s power-play goal tied it at 2 in the second period. Then the Red Wings twice took one-goal third-period leads, only to see the Coyotes tie it each time.
Still, the Red Wings felt the positives out-weighed the negatives.
“We came out pretty solid again, had a good start,” Zetterberg said. “Then they come back and scored two, even when we got the fourth one there, they tied it. (But) in the end, it felt like we deserved the two points.”
Tatar’s goal was a key part of the game.
The Coyotes had appeared to grab the momentum.
“It was huge, we had lost momentum,” Blashill said. “It’s something that we have talked about prior to games, where we would play good hockey and then all of a sudden give up two quick goals and the games went the wrong way. It was really important (Thursday) and obviously a good goal by Tats on the power play.”
Said Zetterberg: “That’s something we talked about before the game, we just have to try and get the momentum back and we got that.”
Moving Dylan Larkin back to his natural center position is proving to be a success, and especially helpful has been having Andreas Athanasiou on his wing. Both possess great speed and put relentless pressure on the Coyotes. Each scored a goal, and with physical Justin Abdelkader on the other wing, have the looks of a promising line.
“(Abdelkader) adds physicality, adds net presence, can make a play,” Blashill said. “It looks like a line that can be a really good line. It has been a really good line for us.”
Getting Larkin acclimated to the center position could prove to be one of the positives in a season that has seen few of them.
“Centers are extremely valuable and if we can get him to become an elite center, that’s a huge thing for our organization,” Blashill said. “(Larkin’s) defensive instincts are better served at center. He’s a guy who anticipates where the puck is going, and that’s something that can hurt you at wing but can help at center.”
Zetterberg’s third-period goal — a rather soft goal allowed by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, but Zetterberg gladly took it — was the 324th goal of his career, tying him with Norm Ullman for sixth on the Red Wings’ all-time list.
“I got the puck and it was two-on-one, me and (Darren) Helm,” Zetterberg said of his goal, which came shortly after a Zetterberg penalty had expired. “(The Coyotes) defensemen gave me a shooting lane. It wasn’t the hardest shot in my career but it found a way to go in.”
… With two power-play goals, the Red Wings now are ranked 29th (13.1 percent), moving past the Avs (13.0) and out of last place. To the Red Wings’ credit, the power play has been more effective and dangerous recently.
… The Red Wings sent defenseman Brian Lashoff back to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids.
Avalanche at Red Wings
Faceoff: 1 Saturday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Avs (20-46-3, 43 points) has the NHL’s worst record, but Wednesday defeated the Red Wings, 3-1. … The Avalanche are 4-6-0 over their last 10 games. … G Calvin Pickard (2.82 GAA, .911 SVS) has arguably been Colorado’s best player.