Detroit — The emotion the Red Wings showed late in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to New Jersey could have been useful much earlier.
A chippy game throughout escalated late and provided some brief fireworks.
But, otherwise, the Wings looked like a team that had seen two former teammates (Andreas Athanasiou, Mike Green) traded away a day earlier.
“It looked like a team who just had two players traded away,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Our focus wasn’t very good. We have to be way better than that moving forward.”
What got the Wings involved emotionally and physically was, originally, a knee-on-knee collision between Robby Fabbri and the Devils’ Jack Hughes, last June’s No. 1 overall pick.
Fabbri has had two knee surgeries in his career that have resulted in a lot of missed time. He struggled to get up after the collision, but skated gingerly off the ice and straight into the locker room.
From there, the temperature in the game appeared to simmer accordingly. In the final minutes, Tyler Bertuzzi checked Hughes into the corner with a clean, hard hit.
Coach Jeff Blashill talks about the Red Wings' chippy 4-1 loss to New Jersey. The Detroit News
Devils forward John Hayden took exception, cross-checking Bertuzzi to the head area. Several players got involved, but no further physicality erupted with just 45 seconds remaining in the game.
“Not a great play, not a play you want to see in our game, to the face,” said Dylan Larkin, on Hayden’s cross-check to Bertuzzi. “Luckily Bert is OK, it looks like Fabbs is OK too, a little shaken up but we got pretty lucky on both plays.”
Blashill felt giving Hughes only a two-minute minor for tripping, rather than a five-minute major, triggered the emotions.
“That’s why you call it a five originally,” Blashill said. “They have to make that choice and they make it in real-time and decided not to (call it a five), so that’s their choice to make. It looked like intent to me, so it’s unfortunate.
“It was a bad hit, no reason for it. I thought it was a five (minute) but they called it a two.”
Blashill had no further update on Fabbri’s condition.
Hughes took a couple of hits earlier in the shift, and said he wanted to respond.
“When you take hit after hit like that, you kind of want to do something yourself,” Hughes said.
The Red Wings expect the league to take a further look at the Hughes and Hayden hits — the Devils didn’t think the hits were quite that dirty to warrant a further look.
What bothered Blashill more, though, was ultimately another sub-par performance from the Wings.
“I’m more disappointed in the fact that we put ourselves in a spot where we had to take crap,” Blashill said.
“They outplayed us, and they were winning, so we had to take it and that’s the part that sucks.”
The Wings were outshot 31-28 – 17-9 in the first period – as Devils goalie Cory Schneider won his first game of the season (1-6-1).
Schneider came into the game with a 4.65 goals-against average and terrible .852 save percentage.
But, sure enough, Schneider looked real good Tuesday, making several key stops in the second period as the Devils extended their lead from 1-0 to 3-0 on two power-play goals.
“Not at all,” said Frans Nielsen, as to whether the Wings made it hard enough for Schneider. “That’s starting to be an old story. We have to do a better job with that.
“We can’t give up three penalty-kill goals, either.”
Yes, which the Wings did, also.
Valtteri Filppula had the lone Wings’ goal, a third-period power-play goal, his sixth.
Joey Anderson, Jesper Bratt (power play), Kyle Palmieri (power play) and Nikita Gusev (power play) had Devils (25-27-10) goals, as New Jersey completed the season sweep against the Wings with the help of three power-play goals.
The Wings (15-46-4) lost a third consecutive game, and in their latest skid, have now lost seven of eight games.
And, in this season of mind-blowing Red Wings statistics, here's yet another one.
Tuesday's loss continued a season-long misery for the Red Wings against the Metropolitan Division.
The Wings haven't beaten a Metropolitan team in 20 games (0-19-1) this season.