It’s not March Madness around the Red Wings these days — more like March Sadness.
The march toward the bottom of the NHL — and better odds to land the first overall pick — continued in earnest Thursday with a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
The loss extended the Red Wings’ winless streak to eight games (0-7-1), with difficult road games in Anaheim (Friday) and Colorado (Sunday) left to conclude the weekend.
How is this March going?
The deciding goal Thursday, with the score tied 1-1 in the third period, pretty much typifies how things are going for the Red Wings these days.
Or, more accurately, going against the Red Wings (26-33-11).
Kings forward Anze Kopitar was able to get the shaft of his stick on a fluttering puck while battling for a loose puck behind the net of goaltender Jared Coreau.
The puck just got over the net and bounced off Coreau’s back and into the net, giving Los Angeles a 2-1 lead.
A true fluky goal, a goal that you might not see over a course of the season.
But, not surprisingly the way the season is ending for the Red Wings, it happened against them.
“I don’t know, really, if we can play any differently,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg to Fox Sports Detroit afterward. “We work hard, battle well, we’re not getting goals (for) us and getting tough goals against.”
Gustav Nyquist (power play) scored the Red Wings goal, tying the score 1-1 45 seconds into the third period on the power play.
Paul Ladue, Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli and Dustin Brown (empty net) scored for the Kings (39-26-6)
Toffoli squashed any hopes of a Red Wings comeback with his 23rd goal with just 90 seconds left in regulation, putting in a rebound of Drew Doughty’s shot.
“There wasn’t a lot of offense out there, it was tough to come by,” coach Jeff Blashill told FSD. “We competed real hard. Obviously it’s not a 4-1 game, it was a one-goal game.”
The Red Wings appeared to get the lift they needed on Nyquist’s 18th goal.
Niklas Kronwall took a shot from the point, and Nyquist’s redirect glanced off the post. But Nyquist was there to tap the rebound past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (20 saves).
With the loss and Toronto’s victory, the Red Wings were mathematically eliminated from earning one of the three automatic Atlantic Division playoff spots
The only way the Red Wings can make the playoff is by virtue of being a wild card — although being 17 points behind with 12 games remaining, it’s likely only a matter days before that route will close, too.
Here are some other observations:
■This was another good game for Tyler Bertuzzi. The Kings played one of their trademark physical games, scrapping for every inch on the ice, and Bertuzzi wasn’t shy against the rugged Kings.
Bertuzzi didn’t back down against defenseman Dion Phaneuf in a scrum in front of Coreau, and shot right back up later in the game when Phaneuf drilled him in the corner and went right back after Phaneuf.
Bertuzzi continued to be around the net, played well on Henrik Zetterberg’s line, and has arguably been the Red Wings’ best player on this road trip.
■Coreau has settled down after a difficult opener in Boston two weeks ago.
Coreau made 18 saves Thursday and looked more in control than in any of his three starts.
Is Coreau doing enough to win the backup job behind Jimmy Howard next season? It’s debatable. But at least Coreau is erasing that ugly start in Boston.
■The “tank” continues. The losing streak lives another day, but give the Red Wings credit: They’re playing hard. This was, essentially, a 1-goal game, but the Red Wings simply don’t have the scoring and depth to compete most nights.
Everyone knew when the schedule came out, this portion of the schedule would be extremely difficult. It’s proving to be.