Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier talks about his 41-save victory Saturday. The Detroit News
Detroit — Too often this season goaltender Jonathan Bernier has played well enough to win — and hasn’t.
The Red Wings would be poor defensively, or a bounce would go against the Wings and Bernier, or Bernier just wasn’t good enough himself.
Regardless, it’s happened a lot.
So, when the Wings defeated the New York Islanders 2-1 Saturday, it was a relief for both the struggling Wings and equally hungry-for-a-victory Bernier.
Bernier made 41 saves against an Islanders team fighting for home ice in the playoffs.
“Bernie has played great,” Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin said. “To see him get the win, he was the best player on the ice. It was huge for him and huge for our team to win a game like this.”
Bernier raised his record to 7-17-5, and won for the first time since Feb. 2 (losing eight consecutive decisions).
Wings players, though, have felt they’ve been to blame for most of Bernier’s defeats.
“I’ve talked about in here after tough losses, or times we’ve come out and haven’t played hard for him and he’s got peppered,” Larkin said. “He’s a guy who works extremely hard in practice, and does it every day. He’s not the loudest guy, he goes about his business and he’s always prepared to play.
“We’re really happy for him. He’s a great guy and this game is something our whole team can build off.”
Bernier felt good from the start in this game and got help from his teammates.
“I was able to see pretty much everything, and when I didn’t control the rebound, the defense were in good position overall,” Bernier said. “It was a team effort.
“The last three or four starts, my reads have been good. It was nice to finally get the result.”
But for a second near the end, it appeared the Islanders were about to tie the score when a shot was deflected and popped over Bernier, who had no idea where it was.
“I got lucky,” Bernier said. “It was a point shot, got tipped in front, and I kind of lost track of it.
“I got lucky. But sometimes you have to be. It was nice to get those bounces. That’s probably the first thing that came to my head (after the game). I didn’t get bad bounces or anything like that. I got some good bounces on my side, and it was nice to have.”
Bernier is likely to have several more starts in these final three weeks of the season and wants to finish on a high note.
“I didn’t have the year I wanted,” Bernier said. “But I want to finish strong and prove I can play and make a difference.”
Forward Dylan Larkin returned to the lineup after missing five games.
Larkin played 21:50 and was credited with two shots, one hit and one giveaway.
“It felt good to be back out there,” Larkin said. “A little rusty, but it’ll come back. It’s been a little time off, so just getting back into it and thinking the game and moving the puck, and our line generated (some offensive chances).”
Coach Jeff Blashill liked the way Larkin jumped back into game action competitively.
“He competed hard,” Blashill said. “He skated good. I don’t think he was as sharp defensively as he’s taken pride in being, he’ll be sharper Tuesday (at New York Rangers). But he competed real hard.”
Blashill was expecting defenseman Trevor Daley to be in the lineup Saturday but found out after warm-ups Daley couldn’t play because of back issues.
Brian Lashoff, who was called up from Grand Rapids Friday night, jumped into the lineup.
Blashill is calling Daley day-to-day for the upcoming five-game trip.
“I expected him to play (Saturday), he took warm-ups,” Blashill said. “He’s had a bad back for a bit. He couldn’t move well enough. With backs you just never know.”
Lashoff played 11:37 on 18 shifts, and was credited with one hit and two blocked shots.
In his NHL debut, forward Ryan Kuffner played 7:08 on 11 shifts. Kuffner replaced Justin Abdelkader (foot), who is day-to-day.
… Bernier’s 41 saves were his third-most of the season. Bernier made 49 saves Nov. 10 against Carolina, and 45 on Dec. 15 against the Islanders.
… With his two goals Saturday, Andreas Athanasiou produced his 14th multi-point game of the season, passing Larkin for the team lead.
Athanasiou also has a team-high six two-goal games.