'We hurt ourselves': Special teams cost Red Wings in 4-1 loss to Blackhawks
Maybe it was the routine being disrupted, and certainly give credit to the opponent.
But the Red Wings didn’t look right Friday, while losing to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1.
The Wings badly lost the special-teams battle, which didn't help either, while falling to 2-3 for the season.
"We're hockey players, we have a lot of guys who've played in the NHL for quite some time, we're professionals," said forward Dylan Larkin, who scored the lone Wings' goal. "We have to show up and play. Our start was good, we just didn't get the puck past the goalie, and we made it too easy for them to get comfortable.
"We forced it too much and gave them too much, just needless turnovers."
Larkin scored his third goal of the season, a great individual effort, at 12 minutes, 22 seconds of the third period, cutting the lead to 3-1.
But the Blackhawks' Mattias Janmark (empty net) scored a shorthanded goal to cement the outcome, as the Wings were unable to build further momentum after Larkin's goal, despite having a power play.
Patrick Kane (power play), Calvin de Haan and Andrew Shaw (power play) also had Chicago goals, while goalie Kevin Lankinen stopped 30 shots as the Blackhawks won their first game (1-3-1).
It was also Lankinen's first NHL victory in his second career start, withstanding a good Wings' start and making key saves early.
"Puck management and specialty teams," said coach Jeff Blashill of the Wings' main culprits Friday. "We ground ourselves down by turning pucks over through the neutral zone and trying to complicate things by forcing plays that weren't there.
"We hurt ourselves way too much. and you (lose the edge) on special teams, it's hard to win."
There were many reasons the Wings could have been out of sync.
The Red Wings were without five players who were on COVID-19 protocol — forwards Filip Zadina (who was added Friday afternoon), Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne and Sam Gagner, and defenseman Jo Merrill.
Practice was altered and shifted into small groups Thursday when it was found Gagner and Merrill were being added to the protocol list.
Add to that, the Wings flew to Chicago Friday morning and didn’t hold a morning skate, further upending an NHL team’s usual schedule.
But they insisted those reasons didn't matter.
"We knew going in it wasn't going to be a normal year," Larkin said. "We have to be ready for the unexpected. We had some adversity our way but we showed up."
Blashill wouldn't use the abnormal 24 to 48 hours as an excuse.
"It can't," Blashill said. "If there was a minor inconvenience, it doesn't mean you can't turn puck the over and not play the right way. We took a step backward tonight playing the wrong way."
Carolina has five players missing because of COVID-19 protocol and the Hurricanes have had games canceled through Saturday. The Wings now have five players, also, but there was no talk of postponing Friday's game.
And Blashill wouldn't want any postponements.
"We want to keep playing," Blashill said. "We waited a long time (10 months) to be in this position. We have to go out and play better than we did. We had good enough players dressed to win the hockey game. We have zero excuses."
The Wings were sloppy on the power play, not scoring in five attempts, while allowing Chicago two power-play goals.
The power play looked rushed and sloppy, but after Larkin's goal, the Wings had an opportunity to close the gap further with a power-play opportunity. But they couldn't convert and ultimately allowed the empty-net goal.
"We have to go out and find a way," said Larkin of that last power-play attempt, of which he was part of the Wings' top unit. "We have to put the onus on the five guys there and expect more. We have to become a dangerous unit."
The Wings are back in Chicago Sunday (12:30 p.m./NBC/97.1).