Red Wings captain looks back on 2017-18 campaign. Ted Kulfan
Detroit — The regular season started with a victory and ended with a defeat.
Befitting of this season, for the most part, considering the way the season went after that opening night celebration.
It was all the stuff in between, all that numbing losing, that turned this into a disappointing season for the Red Wings.
Saturday night was the capper, as John Tavares scored at 3 minutes, 16 seconds of overtime, giving the New York Islanders a 4-3 victory.
Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader (power play) and Dylan Larkin scored goals and goalie Jared Coreau stopped 36 shots, but wound up losing his sixth consecutive decision since being recalled from Grand Rapids last month.
This was a familiar loss. It was the 27th one-goal defeat this season for the Red Wings, who were 10-14-13 in such games.
Red Wings coach discusses Dylan Larkin's growth this season as well as other young players. Ted Kulfan
“That’s a large part of the league now, one-goal games,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the narrow losses. “Certainly we’ve been in tons of them over the last three years. We won a lot of them my first year, more of them last year, and this year not enough of them.
“What do you need to do? Just make plays at critical moments. It’s just the maturation process of young players becoming elite players in their prime. The elite players seem to separate from the league in those moments.
“We need to have some of those guys (Red Wings’ young players) to take that next step to find that goal at critical moments or find ways to make defensive plays in critical moments.”
The close losses were clearly frustrating for a Red Wings team, which finished 24 points out of the playoffs.
“It’s not a fun position to be in,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We finished on the losing end of a lot of close games. Tonight is another example. We just have to learn from our experiences this year.”
Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (power play) scored with 29.7 seconds left in regulation for the Islanders, tying the game 3-3, after Anthony Mantha was called for tripping.
The one point earned Saturday certainly won’t help the Red Wings’ odds for a better pick in the Entry Draft.
The Red Wings (30-39-13, 73 points) will finish 26th or 27th overall, depending on what Vancouver does late Saturday night in Edmonton (Vancouver went into the game with 72 points) - and give the Red Wings either an 8.5 or 7.5 percent chance of obtaining the first overall pick.
Players, though, were concentrating on the frustrating season rather than the immediate future of the draft.
“We’ve been standing here many times after games, and I’m probably repeating myself again, but when we’re playing well and doing the right things we’re a good team,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who left little doubt he’ll be returning next season. “The inconsistency we have is hurting ourselves more so in games.”
The Red Wings finished with a meager 16-16-9 record at Little Caesars Arena.
“We said this after last year’s celebration at Joe Louis Arena, we have the best fans maybe in sports,” Blashill said. “They’re educated, passionate, but they’re very supportive. We didn’t give them enough to cheer about this year, and yet, they’re very supportive.”
Andrew Ladd and Anders Lee (his 40th) added goals for the Islanders (35-37-10, 80 points).