Sinking Wings skate into break on four-game skid: 'It'll be good to get away'
Detroit — Here’s something to be thankful for if you’re a Red Wings fan.
The Wings are beginning their holiday break Monday morning. So no games until this weekend, no chance to watch and get frustrated — or simply turn the channel.
Regardless, it’s probably a good time to forget about the hockey for a few days, with Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Arizona an appropriate way to skate into the break given the way this season has gone.
“Getting away from it a little bit, and thinking about something else, and being with the family,” said forward Frans Nielsen, “hopefully we can recharge the batteries a little bit.
“We have to look better than this coming back from this break.”
The chance to escape from this difficult season, said coach Jeff Blashill, if even for a few days, could help.
“We have a longer break than normal, which probably for us, we need right now,” Blashill said. “It’ll be good to get away and let’s come back after the break a little fresh and continue to build to be a better hockey team.”
Filip Zadina scored his third goal midway in the third period to at least get the Wings on the scoreboard, and Tyler Bertuzzi scored his team-leading 14th goal with just under six minutes to go.
Clayton Keller had two goals and Carl Soderberg, newly acquired Taylor Hall, and Christian Dvorak had the others, while Coyotes (21-13-4) goalie Antti Raanta stopped 28 shots.
The Wings (9-26-3) go into the break on a four-game losing streak and have now lost a staggering 16 of their last 18 games (2-14-2).
Goaltender Jimmy Howard returned to the Wings lineup for the first time since Nov. 27 — he’s been out with an undisclosed injury — and lost his eighth consecutive decision while stopping 40 shots.
“Felt fine, I had fun being back there,” Howard said. “They were just quicker to pucks, quicker in every aspect.
“It’ll be good for everyone to just get away for a couple of days and be with their families and really not think about hockey.”
Howard actually appeared to get sharper as the game went along, making several nice saves in the third period as the Coyotes continued to press and get odd-man rushes against the defenseless Wings.
“Jimmy was ready, but we have to be tighter defensively as a group,” Blashill said. “That’s just something we’ll be working at, finding ways to make sure we’re eliminating scoring opportunities.”
The Wings were also without forward Anthony Mantha (upper body), who was hurt in Saturday's loss in Toronto.
Keller opened the scoring at 13:25 of the first period, one-timing a pass from Nick Schmaltz from near the dot.
Shortly afterward, Keller scored his 10th goal, with Schmaltz and Oliver Ekman-Larsson assisting — as the pair did on the first goal, as well.
This time, Schmaltz left a drop pass for Keller entering the zone, and Keller whistled a shot past Howard from inside the circle at 16:43.
“Our start was good, until they scored a goal,” Blashill said. “Right now we’re letting goals weigh us down and that’s something we’ve talked about at different times. We have to have a short memory.
“We have to continue to find ways to not let that bother us.”
The last thing the Wings needed to open the second period was fall behind further quickly. But sure enough, Soderberg snapped a shot that appeared to deflect off a body or two, then squirm past Howard, who was off balance and couldn't smother it, just 39 seconds into the period.
The Coyotes pushed it to 4-0 on Hall's first goal as a Coyote — his seventh of the season — a bomb from the hashmarks.
Zadina created something for Wings to cheer about in the third period with his goal.
Just as a Wings' power play expired, with the Coyotes scrambling and Raanta without his blocker and not set, Zadina got a loose puck and calmly skated to the hashmarks before snapping a shot past Raanta.
“We had good momentum and the puck bounced right to my skate,” Zadina said. “I just tried to fake it and kind of pull him to the side. It was great, unfortunately, we didn’t score earlier in the game.”