Jeff Blashill says Red Wings' effort in loss was a "joke." Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — The Detroit Red Wings helped the expansion Vegas Golden Knights look more like a Stanley Cup contender Thursday night.
The Golden Knights, tied for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, completely throttled the Red Wings in a 4-0 victory that felt even more one-sided than the final score.
Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin scored two goals each for Vegas, which broke open the game with three goals late in the second period, while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 28 shots.
The Red Wings (26-30-11) are clearly in a bad way, winless (0-4-1) in five games and having won three times over the last 12 games (3-7-2).
And this effort, overall, didn’t sit well with the Red Wings, whose largely young roster simply didn’t bring a good enough effort.
“We’ve worked our butts off a lot this year and haven’t had the results to show for it all the time,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’ve applauded these guys’ competitiveness and ability to get back up. Tonight was no good. Tonight was unacceptable. When you do that you better walk out with your head down because that’s a joke."
A term that was popular afterward among Blashill and captain Henrik Zetterberg was “poke and hope,” meaning Red Wings players were being lazy defensively.
“Poke and hope is called 50-50 hockey, it’s a way to lose tons of games,” Blashill said. “To me, it’s a young mistake. We have enough young guys doing it for sure. You basically poke and hope you get it and if you don’t get it, they’re (opponents) going to get a chance.
“That’s not a way to win. You want to create chances without giving up chances."
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill spoke after Thursday night's loss to Vegas. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Zetterberg, clearly frustrated, doesn’t want to see players gambling for offensive opportunities
“You want to be a solid player in this league, you want to win something, you have to learn to play the right way,” Zetterberg said. “Poke and hope might get you 25 or 30 goals but you’re never going to win anything.
“You have to play defense first. If you do that, we have guys who have enough skill to create chances and get enough chances. You can’t force on a gamble. You have to do it right and eventually you get chances.”
Zetterberg hopes these games are a learning experience for the young players.
“I hope so,” Zetterberg said. “Because it’s not fun losing, and to start winning, you have to do things right.”
The Red Wings were still in Thursday’s game until an interference penalty to former teammate Tomas Tatar — dealt to Vegas Feb. 26 at the trade deadline — began a Red Wings unraveling.
Detroit Red Wing Justin Abdelkader spoke after Thursday night's loss to Vegas. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
During a decidedly bad power play, Anthony Mantha bobbled the puck at the blue just as the rest of his teammates were headed to the bench.
That brought on a shorthanded 2-on-0 Golden Knights rush on Howard going the other way, and Eakin snapped his eighth goal at 10:40 of the second period.
“It’s a bad turnover and bad change,” Blashill said.
That simply started the ugliness.
Eakin scored his second of the game and ninth of the season at 17:48 of the second period.
Eakin wheeled free from Mantha in the offensive zone, got open in the hashmarks, and whistled a shot past a defenseless Howard to make it 3-0 Vegas.
Just 50 seconds later Tuch added his second of the game, and 13th of the season, converting another Red Wings turnover with a shot from just above the hashmarks.
“The third and fourth were inexcusable, unacceptable effort in our own end,” Blashill said.
There simply weren’t many bright spots for the Red Wings.
Evgeny Svechnikov made his season debut, but went minus-2 in 9 minutes, 9 seconds of ice time, although the Red Wings did keep Tatar off the score sheet (four shots in just under 16 minutes).
But, in the end, it was a poor effort for a rare home game sandwiched around two five-game trips.
“We’re a team that, for us to be successful and win on a nightly basis, we have to go out and outwork the other team,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “If we don’t, it’s going to be tough for us to win.
“We just came out and weren’t competing hard enough to win in this league. We have to win more puck battles.
“It’s a disappointing effort here at home.”