Wings shut out Oilers; Nyquist injury seems minor
Edmonton, Alberta — A lot of good news, but some bad news Sunday afternoon for the Red Wings.
But mostly good, and even the bad might not turn out to be as bad as it looked.
The good was an impressive, almost dominating 4-0 victory over the listless, and just downright bad, Edmonton Oilers.
Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Martin Frk and Anthony Mantha (power play) scored and Petr Mrazek stopped 36 shots for the Red Wings, who play Monday in Vancouver.
The Red Wings (7-7-1) jumped out to a lead on Nielsen’s goal and took the spirit and energy out of an Oilers team that doesn’t resemble last season’s playoff team at all.
BOX SCORE: Red Wings 4, Oilers 0
“One of the better games since I’ve been here,” said Nielsen, who played in his 700th career game. “It was 60 minutes, very few mistakes, we got pucks deep and were good on the forecheck. It was a very solid, simple road game.”
The Red Wings came out with a purpose, and it showed quickly.
“Our competitive level was great,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We set a good tone as to how we want to play in the first period, of getting pucks deep behind them and being good on the forecheck.
“It was the way we want to play hockey.”
But there was some bad news for the Red Wings, too.
The Red Wings lost Nyquist later in the first period with a right knee injury.
Nyquist and Edmonton defenseman Eric Gryba had a knee-on-knee collision along the blue line, with Nyquist getting the worst of the hit.
Nyquist couldn’t put any weight on the leg after getting up and slowly getting to the bench, and was grimacing in pain before hobbling to the locker room.
Both Blashill and general manager Ken Holland were optimistic the injury wasn’t long term.
“I would say right now it’s day-to-day,” Blashill said. “I don’t think it’s a long-term thing but he might not be available for (Monday in Vancouver).”
Blashill, because of Nyquist’s injury and attempting to match up against Edmonton star Connor McDavid, fiddled with his lines nearly all game — and it couldn’t have worked any better.
“We had a plan going in to try to just figure out who they were going to match McDavid against and have certain guys out there,” Blashill said. “(Luke) Glendening was going to be on any line they were going to match (McDavid against).
“All the guys who were there against McDavid did a real good job. The way it set up we played AA (Andreas Athanasiou) at center, I told him the other day he’d be playing a lot of center in this game. The lines were dangerous offensively.”
In his 700th career game, Nielsen opened the scoring with one of the stranger goals he or anyone will score.
Nick Jensen unleashed a shot from the point that appeared to be heading wide. But Nielsen, battling near the circle, stretched his stick and redirected the puck just under the cross bar and past goalie Cam Talbot, Nielsen’s fifth goal at 3:23.
“I didn’t even know it went in,” Nielsen said. “So, yeah, you could say it was lucky.”
Mrazek, playing his first game since Oct. 20, made several key saves in the second period to preserve the lead.
“The first shot (of the game) was kind of a bouncy shot and I just tried to put it in the corner,” Mrazek said. “But I felt great, the guys did a great job in front of me and the 4-0 was a bonus.”
Said Blashill, of Mrazek’s performance: “He was excellent. He made some saves point blank on Connor McDavid, and we all know how good he is. Pete put in a lot of work both in the summer and in the time he hasn’t been playing in this last bit. He was totally ready for this opportunity.”