Michael Rasmussen talks about his return from a minor league conditioning stint. The Detroit News
Detroit — The Red Wings didn’t win Thursday but might have seen a glimpse of their future.
Big forward Michael Rasmussen, the Wings’ 2017 first-round draft pick, had a goal and assist Thursday, a huge bright spot, in a 4-3 loss to Vegas.
Rasmussen, 19, was just returning from a 3-game conditioning stint in Grand Rapids, after having not played since Jan. 4 because of a hamstring injury.
Rasmussen had two goals during his brief minor-league stay, and the confidence he gained continued into the NHL.
“Ras was great, it was the best game he’s played all year for us,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He was excellent in Grand Rapids (Wednesday) and it carried over (Thursday). He had the puck on his stick and he was way more confident. He is a menace around the net.”
Rasmussen and Thomas Vanek (with 2.7 seconds left) scored in the third period, cutting the Vegas lead to one each time.
But three Vegas goals in the second period, erasing a 1-0 Wings lead, proved to be the difference.
“You want to have walked out with a better lead than what we had (in the first),” Blashill said. “We kind of gave away goals (in the second), You can’t give away goals like that but you have to score on your opportunities for sure.”
Coach Jeff Blashill on what hurt the Red Wings against Vegas The Detroit News
Jonathan Marchessault had two goals, one on a power play, and William Karlsson added the other goal as the Knights turned the game around in the second period.
Brayden McNabb scored at 11:07 of the third period, just after Rasmussen scored, restoring a two-goal Vegas lead.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 28 shots, but was outplayed by Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 35 saves including several highlight-worthy ones late in the second period to preserve the lead.
“Missed opportunities and they capitalized on their (opportunities),” Howard said, talking about the difference in the game. “When we had good looks, they’d get a stick on it or Flower (Fleury) would make a huge save.”
The Wings (21-26-7) saw their 3-game winning streak end, unable to match a season-high 4-game streak (November 6-13).
But there was a definite bright spot in Rasmussen, who had a team-high seven shots along with the two points in just under 15 minutes of ice time (14:57).
Rasmussen cut the Knights lead to 3-2 with his seventh goal, at 4:41 of the third period.
“He was really going, and he’s an elite net-front guy as a 19-year-old,” Blashill said. “From the beginning of the year he’s been very good at the net. His willingness to go to the net, he’s a big man, hard to move out of the way, and with good hands in tight — he’s a real good net-front guy.”
Rasmussen felt his time in the minor leagues restored his timing and got his legs back to NHL level.
“Going down to G.R. helped me,” Rasmussen said. “It’s never easy to come back from an injury but I felt OK. Just getting your legs under, and conditioning, and game shape, there’s nothing like game shape and just getting into game action.”
How does Rasmussen explain his effectiveness around the net?
“Practice, hard work,” Rasmussen said. “To get better in that area, it comes with a lot of practice and (you) get better.”
The Knights (31-21-4) have won two straight after losing four in a row.