Niklas Kronwall on a workmanlike victory over Ottawa The Detroit News
Kanata, Ontario — It hasn’t happened often this season, not nearly enough for them to be successful.
So when the Red Wings are able to close out a game, play an impressive third period and either maintain or extend a lead, you take notice.
It’s been rare this season for them to do so.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory in Ottawa was a game you kept waiting for the Wings to give away late. But they never did.
Perhaps it was an example of the Wings turning a corner.
“We played like a mature team, we got pucks out and got pucks in and kind of salted away a win defensively,”coach Jeff Blashill said. “That’s been one of our biggest issues; we haven’t been able to do that. The fact we were able to is part of the maturation process of our team. Our guys are understanding the way we have to play.
“You’d like to score the next one; it’s an easier way to win a hockey game. But from a defensive standpoint, we were good.”
Overall, this wasn’t a work of art from the Red Wings.
The power play struggled badly during an almost six-minute stretch in the second period, where the Wings could have solidified the win right there — and did not.
The start wasn’t particularly great, either. But the Wings were able to get goals from Danny DeKeyser and Darren Helm 39 seconds apart, and had a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
“We weren’t very good, but we scored, and it was a loose game, and we found a way to be up 2-0,” Blashill said. “We’ve played lots of real good periods that we’ve played good and hadn’t scored.”
But when they needed it, the Wings’ penalty kill was dominant for a second consecutive game, and then in the third, the Wings’ played the type of game a winning team plays.
It was refreshing, and offered hope for the future.
“This stretch has been fun, we’ve been good for a while now,” DeKeyser said. “It’s nice to see we’re getting results and winning some games.”
Win one for Bernie
Whenever the Wings did falter defensively, goaltender Jonathan Bernier was there to erase the mistakes.
Bernier stopped all 35 shots in his first start since Jan. 20. He earned his first victory since Dec. 20, and ended a four-game winless streak.
“As the third period was winding down, nobody said anything but it just kind of felt like we wanted to get the win for Bernie,” DeKeyser said. “He’s had some tough games. The second night of back-to-backs is when he’s usually playing, so it’s tough on him.
“I’m just glad we got a win for him.”
Blashill has been consistent in his support of Bernier, and was pleased to see his goaltender rewarded against the Senators.
“Bernier was real good,” Blashill said. “They had a number of shots in the first (period), and he was able to keep it out, then in the third when he needed to make big saves he was real good.
“I have a lot of faith in Bernie; he’s a real good goalie. He found a way to stay at different times of the year when it’s been tough to stay with it. Him and I have talked, and a big part of the game is being mentally tough and he was excellent (Saturday).”
DeKeyser became the second defenseman in Red Wings’ franchise history to score a game-winning goal in consecutive days. The other: Anders Eriksson, on Dec. 22-23, 1997.
“It’s funny how this game works,” DeKeyser said. “Sometimes you get tons of chances and everything just stays out, or hits a post, goes wide. Whatever. Sometimes they just start going in.
“It’s definitely nice when they go in.”
… Helm scored Saturday in what was his 600th career NHL game.
“Helmer’s a heck of a player,” Blashill said. “He just plays hard every day and his competitive level is great. This game many times comes down to winning puck battles and puck races, and he does a great job of that.”