The road taken: Nedeljkovic carries Red Wings to rare win in Boston
Boston — As good as the Red Wings have been at Little Caesars Arena, it's been a different story on the road.
But Tuesday night, the Wings got a little something going away from home.
Playing a patient and disciplined road game, and getting continued top-notch goaltending from Alex Nedeljkovic, who tied a career-high with 41 saves, the Wings went into Boston and defeated the Bruins, 2-1.
Marc Staal broke a 1-1 tie with a third-period goal at 11:33 after Boston's David Pastrnak netted a power-play goal to tie the game at 6:20.
Staal pinched from the point and put a rebound past goaltender Linus Ullmark for his first goal of the season.
Then Nedeljkovic preserved the lead with another outstanding game, earning his third consecutive victory.
Filip Zadina opened the Wings' scoring in the second period.
As good as Nedeljkovic was again, coach Jeff Blashill felt it was an impressive team victory.
"We played good defensively and we gave up shots, but we didn't give up a whole lot of chances," Blashill said. "When we did, he (Nedeljkovic) did a good job and that's the type of game that can really help goalies push their save percentages high because it's a decent amount of shots but decent amount from the outside.
"For me, this would be more of a team defense success than just one player. Certainly Alex did a good job and against St. Louis he stole us a game, but that wasn't the case (Tuesday). We played real good defensively, and it allows you to go on the road and quell momentum like we've talked about."
Boston had won 11 of the previous 12 games between the teams at TD Garden, so this was a notable victory.
"It's a tough building to play in, it's a momentum building," forward Dylan Larkin said. "When you take penalties and they go on the power play, they move the puck around well and it's hard, but we did a great job of staying disciplined early and we played a great road game and got great goaltending."
The Wings had gone 1-6-1 in their last eight road games, including going winless in the last four. Finding some success on the road, and beginning to match their home proficiency, was a main topic of conversation the past few days.
"It wasn't the prettiest win but a win our team needed to build confidence that even when we don't have our best, we can grind out a great defensive effort and goalie will be there for us," Larkin said.
Having the level of goaltending that Nedeljkovic provides helps.
Zadina scored his fourth goal, at 5:03 of the second period, injecting offense into what had been largely a defensive struggle.
Zadina has been seeing less time on the second line and used on the fourth line as Blashill wanted to inject Givani Smith's size and physical nature on the slumping second line.
Zadina showed the potential he possesses, causing a neutral-zone turnover, receiving a pass from Pius Suter as Suter just hopped onto the ice, and skating through the slot to deposit a backhander past Ullmark.
"He played good, he did a good job of skating and being on pucks," said Blashill, who noted Zadina had been depending too much on skill lately. "For him to be a successful player in this league, he has to play really hard, be hard on the puck, hard on the forecheck and win puck battle, and he's done that the last two games."
The Bruins were without leading scorer, forward Brad Marchand, who began serving a three-game suspension for an infraction against Vancouver's Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Sunday's game.
But the Wings played well enough in many areas to collect the two points.
"They're missing a hell of a player, he's on a lot of nights," Blashill said. "But with that said, I don't want to take anything away from our own players. We did a real good job. We'd like a little more offensive pressure, like a few more chances, we had opportunities to create more chances, we had rushes that could have resulted in real chances but we didn't quite execute clean enough with the puck.
"But from a mindset from a defensive standpoint, we did a much better job of playing good defensively and managing the puck."
Oxford thoughts offered
Larkin and Blashill both opened their postgame remarks with thoughts for the community of Oxford, after the day's shootings at the high school.
"I'd like to on behalf of our whole organization and the guys in the room, send my heartfelt condolences to the community of Oxford, Michigan and metro Detroit and the state of Michigan in general," Larkin said. "It was an unspeakable tragedy what happened today and it hit us hard, it hit the guys in the room hard and we're thinking about the victims and the entire community and we're there to support and we just feel awful about the tragedy that happened today.
"Our thoughts are with Oxford, Michigan tonight."
Blashill was emotional talking about the situation.
"I just want to send out my prayers to the families that were affected today in Oxford," Blashill said. "It's a terrible, terrible thing and it just shouldn't happen. Nothing I can say, certainly, can do anything to help those that suffered the tragedy that lost their lives and it's insane this is somewhat normal and it just shouldn't happen again. My heart goes out to everybody involved and everybody at the school and the community. It's got to stop."