Red Wings offense shut down in 3-0 loss to shorthanded Jets
Detroit — Maybe it was the travel back from the West Coast. Maybe the Red Wings are officially in a slump.
Whatever the cause, a return home wasn’t helpful Thursday for the Wings, who lost 3-0 to the decimated Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets were without eight players, all in COVID protocol, but they did have former Ann Arbor Skyline quarterback Andrew Copp and that proved to be the difference.
Copp, a former high school football star and college hockey standout at Michigan, scored two goals leading the Jets to victory.
Kyle Connor (Shelby Township) added a shorthanded, empty-net goal and goalie Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce) stopped 33 shots, as the Jets’ Michigan connection definitely led the way.
"We did a lot of good things and it's a hard game (to come back to) after you come back after being away," Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin said. "We get home late last night and we have to turn around and play, and we showed up. We just didn't show up on the scoreboard and that's where it matters."
The Wings enjoyed a two-man advantage, and even pulled goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to have essentially a 6-on-3 advantage with just under five minutes remaining, but couldn’t convert in almost 90 seconds of the multi-skater advantage.
The Wings were goal-less in five power play attempts in all.
"We have to find ways to score, and have to score every night in this league to win," Larkin said. "Five on three, six on three, we have to find something and we didn't."
The inability to convert with the multi-man advantage, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said, was a key difference in the game.
"It's a huge moment and we weren't able to score," Blashill said. "We had a couple of chances on it, we have to find a way to score."
All the while, the Wings continue to flounder.
They’ve won only three of their last 13 games (3-8-2), won once in seven games, and are winless in four consecutive games.
The Wings dipped below .500 (16-17-5) in the standings, too.
“If you’re in this league, you're in this league for a reason,” Nedeljkovic said after Thursday’s morning skate, when asked about the Wings’ busy schedule amid the losing. “It doesn’t matter who is in or out, we have to find ways to win games, whether it’s at home or the on the road. We’ve going to have a tougher schedule coming up.”
What made this loss particularly disappointing for the Red Wings was that the Jets were extremely shorthanded. Winnipeg had eight regulars out of the lineup in COVID protocol, but the way the Jets (17-12-5) looked on the ice you couldn’t tell much difference.
Some of the Jets who were missing included key forwards Paul Stastny and Nik Ehlers, and defensemen Brenden Dillon and Nathan Beaulieu.
"They played well, they're hard to play against, and their big guys played well," Larkin said. "They pretty much stuck to their two top lines and they were in sync and got into a rhythm and scored goals. But we have to be way harder on them."
Larkin, who was chosen as the Red Wings' representative for the All-Star Gamer earlier in the evening, returned to the lineup after missing one game with an upper-body injury.
"I felt good," said Larkin, who had a team-leading eight shots on 21 minutes of ice time. "It was something that just took a game to make sure it wasn't something bigger, but I felt good."
Copp opened the scoring at 5:41 of the first period.
Former Red Wing Evgeny Svechnikov got the puck along the boards and fed Copp driving down wing. Copp got to the goal line and lifted a shot that was perfectly placed behind Nedeljkovic’s shoulders.
Copp pushed the lead to 2-0 in the second period.
With a Red Wings power play expiring, Connor (Shelby Township) found Copp alone on a breakaway and Copp deposited his second of the game and 10th goal of the season at 11:07.
Thursday’s game was the Wings’ fourth in six nights, and they traveled back Wednesday from California.
Some tired legs were expected. But Blashill felt the Wings skated well under the circumstances.
"There were moments in the third we didn't have the legs we needed, but up until that point we certainly had enough legs," Blashill said. "We had some looks (offensive chances) for sure. Obviously Connor is a real good goalie, but we had some real looks. We have to stay with it and keep working and find a way to be a little better for 60 minutes."