'Gutted it out': Penalty killing helps Red Wings end long losing streak
Detroit — Ken Holland’s new team proved to be the perfect tonic for the Red Wings.
Dylan Larkin (power play) and Patrik Nemeth scored 52 seconds apart in the first period and goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 31 shots as the Wings ended an eight-game winless streak Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over Edmonton.
Filip Hronek added an empty-net goal to clinch it, after a crucial Wings’ penalty kill, to secure a much-needed victory.
“It was a great feeling but it was building, it’s not a fluke,” Larkin said. “It was a relief for us. We stuck with it, and against a good team, we gutted it out.”
The victory for the Wings (4-8-1) came against Holland, the former general manager who left to become GM of the Edmonton Oilers last spring when Steve Yzerman replaced him in Detroit.
Edmonton (8-4-1) is off to a surprisingly good start, but having won only one of its last five games, the Oilers could be coming down to earth.
They proved to be the perfect opponent for the struggling Wings, who never really let the Oilers get going.
The Wings contained star Edmonton forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl until Draisaitl scored his 10th goal — set up by McDavid — at 12 minutes, 48 seconds of the third period, cutting the lead to 2-1.
“They’re tough players to defend,” Nemeth said. “McDavid has the speed and Draisaitl has the shot and they’re real dynamic together. It’s a real tough job to do that (stop them) and it takes not only one or two guys but every guy on the ice has to do their job, and we did a pretty good job.”
Edmonton came into the game with the top-ranked power play (33.3 percent) in the NHL, but were shut down by the Wings late in the first period, another Oiler man advantage midway in the second period, and then a crucial 4-on-3 with six minutes to go with Draisaitl and McDavid skating dangerously with open ice.
“That was huge,” Nemeth said of the late penalty kill. “You don’t want to take a penalty there, but at the end of the game stuff happens. We did a real good job of trying to take away the one-timer there and got some good saves and good sticks (deflecting pucks).”
The Wings came into the game ranked 29th on the penalty kill, but some adjustments over the past few days appeared to have helped.
“You have to win to breed confidence, so it’s a huge way to find a way to win,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The (penalty) kill was excellent.”
Said Larkin: “When your PK is great, your goaltending is great, and he’s your best penalty killer and Howie made huge saves there.”
Larkin opened the scoring at 7:41 in the first period with his fourth goal.
Larkin took a pass from Taro Hirose near the side of the net, whirled inside and beat goalie Mikko Koskinen.
The Wings pushed the lead to 2-0 just 52 seconds later on Nemeth’s first goal as a Wing.
Edmonton failed to clear the puck out of its zone, with a weak attempt landing on Nemeth’s stick at the point.
Nemeth took a stride in and snapped a shot that beat Koskinen high glove side at 8:33.
“It was nice but they have a lot of real good offensive threats,” Nemeth said of his first goal as Wing, which turned out to be the game-winner.
“It’s early in the game still, and we just had to continue to play the way we did, the way we played in the third period (Sunday) and bring it and play with it tonight.”