Red Wings lament frittering away sure victory

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nick Jensen (3) and Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) battle for a loose puck in the second period.

Detroit — After the 4-3 loss to the Avalanche, the Red Wings clearly thought they let one slip through their grasp.

Despite one of their worst overall efforts in recent games, they felt they had simply failed to finish off an opponent, who had played the night before while they rested.

“It’s not a good feeling,” Abdelkader said. “Obviously, we want to close those out when we have the lead.”

The Wings yielded a power-play goal with 6:15 left in the game and a goal with an extra Avalanche attacker on the ice and with 46 seconds left to give up the lead.

Their defensive structure and offensive intention seemed to elude them after Niklas Kronwall’s goal gave them a 3-1 lead with 8:53 left.

“That last goal was tough,” Abdelkader said, of the tying tally. “We got hemmed in there (with)  that extra attacker, and they got a fortunate break.

“But, you know, we’ve got to find a way to close teams out like that.”

The Red Wings spent more time in their zone as the third period wore on. With Jonathan Bernier pulled from the Avalanche goal and a sixth attacker, the Wings failed to get possession of the puck or clear it.

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“When you’re out there for over a minute and hemmed in, and guys are trying to get into lanes to block shots and do everything right, they’re going to continue to get pucks on the net,” Abdelkader said. “And it goes off (Carl) Soderberg’s stick or chest, I don’t know which, in front, and it found a way in.”

Playoff hopes

Asked for their evaluation, as the team hits Thanksgiving Day week, a traditional and frequently accurate indicator of an NHL team’s likelihood of making the playoffs despite a long season ahead, both captain Henrik Zetterberg and coach Jeff Blashilll said it was tough to make a response, especially after losing a game they could easily have won.

“Well, when you ask that question right now, I think it’s probably more negative than positive,”  Zetterberg said. “It’s tough to stand here and talk, when we got a two-goal lead in the third.”

Overall, Zetterberg said, the goalies and penalty kill have been good and the power play improved.

“I thought that we’ve been starting games good, recently. Maybe a little off here, tonight. But still it wasn’t awful — you found a way to get a 3-1 lead.

“But then you want to hang on to it and get the two points, but we couldn’t do that tonight.”

Blashill said it was hard to say he likes his team through 23 games, after “a performance tonight that just wasn’t good enough.”

The game serves as a reminder, Blashill said.

“You’ve got to show up," he said. "You need everyone going every night to win in this league.

“You’d like to be perfect every night. I’ve yet to coach a perfect team. We’ve just got to understand you’ve got to play optimally, as close as you can to it every single night.

“We’ve got to regroup. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go against a real fine Edmonton team Wednesday night.

Right combination

The Red Wings skated 11 forwards and seven defensemen again Sunday against the Avalanche, and Blashill said he likes the flexibility it gives him.

Primarily, it allows him to match a superior checking line against the opponent’s top forwards while preserving his options to mix and match his own skilled players.

“I’m fine with 11 and seven. I’ve done it before in the American (Hockey) League,” Blashill said, referring to the NHL.

“You know, I think the way we are as a team, it allows me to have a match line and also put some other skill lines together, and play guys with multiple people, instead of just having them play with one person.

“So, I think that’s helped us.”

It also helps the Wings keep their better offensive players away from the better defenders.

“You’ve got to make certain that the skilled players that you have, that there’s good matches for those guys,” Blashill said.

“So, the way our 11 work out, whoever I sub in at 12th that’s another high-end player and you get minutes to some of those high-end forwards.

“There’s certainly guys on this team who, when they’re playing great, we’re trying to feed high-end minutes to. Dressing 11 allows us to do that easier than with 12.”