Coach Jeff Blashill says the Red Wings must continue to keep getting better at maintaining leads late in games. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — It’s not like the Red Wings could have called on Mariano Rivera to help them out.
That would have been the ideal.
But the Wings’ difficulty in closing out games, and losing leads, was one of many reasons for the December (and early January) swoon that dropped them in the standings.
Then came Saturday. The Wings built on their lead, rather than losing it, and defeated the Wild, 5-2, one of the several positives gleaned for a team searching to find the formula to win.
“Certainly the way we played in the third, in terms of not giving up much at all, was excellent,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That’s something we have to continue to get better at, obviously. We’ve been in spots where we’ve had leads and gave them away.
“The fact, again, they didn’t seem to get much going at all was certainly a good thing for us.”
Tyler Bertuzzi scored 47 seconds into the third period, extending the Wings’ lead to 4-2, and added another goal midway in the third, completing his hat trick.
Instead of sitting back, the Wings were definitely the team on the attack in the third period. But, also, the Wild got precious little going from an offensive standpoint as the Wings kept attacking while owning possession of the puck.
“We’ve been in close games and just haven’t had that factor,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “(Saturday) we went out in the third period and scored early and put the game away. It’s way better than having them come out and they’re on the attack and we’re sitting back, and they score or tie it and we’re lucky to get to overtime.
“We have to play more like that in the third period and we know that. That was our best third period of hockey all year, and us having that feeling now and the confidence, there’s no reason we can’t play like that every third period.”
Larkin talked after Friday’s loss in Winnipeg about something having “to click," and some of that came came to fruition in Minnesota.
“I didn’t mean anything needed to change with the group or with our mindset,” Larkin said. “I do think going into the Minnesota game, we had a great gameplan and we wanted to get traffic in front of (goaltender Devan) Dubnyk and we did that, and we played fast.
“We had a great strategy and stuck to it all game. That’s the kind of thing I meant when something had to click. Confidence is a huge thing in this league and we need to bring that out (Tuesday).”
Anaheim enters Tuesday’s game against the Wings with an 11-game winless streak (0-7-4), losing Sunday in Winnipeg, 4-3, in overtime.
Former Wings coach Mike Babcock often would say a team in a losing streak like that would be like having “a tiger by its tail," meaning it’s at its most dangerous.
Blashill didn’t disagree, but feels his own team is the same way.
“I watched a decent amount of the Winnipeg game and it looked and sounded like Anaheim played a hard game, and there was tons of desperation,” Blashill said. “I know we’re going to get that from them and I would ask we should have the same type of urgency level considering where we’ve been over the last three or four weeks, or whatever (the Wings are 3-10-3 over the last 16 games).
“They should be getting a tiger by the tail, and I’m sure vice versa is true.”
The Wings have also lost five or their last seven games at Little Caesars Arena (1-5-1), which they’re trying to reverse.
“You can’t take any teams lightly in this league,” said defenseman Mike Green, noting Anaheim’s record (19-18-9, 47 points), and that it's tied for a wild-card spot entering Monday's games. “We haven’t had a whole lot of success at home, so it has to start (Tuesday).”
Blashill wasn’t overly thrilled with Monday’s practice from several standpoints.
“Not good enough attention to detail, not good enough effort,” Blashill said. “Not ready to battle. You can’t be good every once in a while, you have to be good every day. (It’s a) real rarity. Haven’t seen much at all (of that type of lack of execution and effort).”
… Defenseman Danny DeKeyser (wrist) practiced Monday and declared himself ready to go against the Ducks. Blashill will make a final determination after consulting with the medical staff.
… Forward Jacob de la Rose didn’t practice, but Blashill was confident de la Rose would be available against the Ducks.
Ducks at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
Outlook: Anaheim (19-18-9, 47 points) hasn’t won in 11 games (0-7-4), yet remains tied for the final wild-card spot in the West. … D Cam Fowler (Farmington Hills) and C Ryan Kesler highlight a veteran group, including C Ryan Getzlaf (21 assists, 31 points).