'Everything went wrong': Red Wings hit rock bottom in 9-2 loss to last-place Coyotes

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There is a new candidate for the Red Wings' worst game of the season.

And it might be difficult to out-worse this one.

The Wings were never really in it Tuesday as the Arizona Coyotes — occupying last place in the NHL overall standings heading into the game — handily defeated the Wings 9-2.

"From the start pucks just kept getting in the net," forward Dylan Larkin said. "Everything went wrong."

This, after the Wings put together another candidate for season's worst Saturday, a poor 6-2 loss in Florida. But this may have been even worse.

That's three consecutive losses for the Wings (24-27-6) and six losses in the last eight games, as the Wings have hit a definitive rough spot in their season.

BOX SCORE: Coyotes 9, Red Wings 2

"We practiced hard (Monday) and we were physical on each other, we battled, and we didn't do that (in the game)," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We just didn't skate at all, we got skated all over the ice, and you have no chance for success when it's like that."

The key now for Blashill, and the players, is to keep this from free-falling over the final seven weeks of this season. Every position group, every player and coach, said Blashill, needs to improve.

"I'm concerned about all of us, everybody has to look in the mirror and has to be better, the players, coaches, everybody," Blashill said.

"I wouldn't single any area in particular. I would say everybody. We've got to defend better. We have to way harder, we have to be way harder to play against. Everybody has to do a better job."

Linesman Derek Nansen tries to break up a fight between Detroit center Sam Gagner and Arizona defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok during the third period.

Somehow, said Larkin, the Wings need to find the optimism that was so prevalent for most of this season — but has disappeared.

"We have to find that again or those last two months will be miserable," Larkin said. "We're playing a lot of hockey and we have to find the optimism and find a way to come to the rink and play harder for each other, and the fans, than we did tonight.

"If we feel sorry for ourselves, it's just going to keep happening. We have to find a way to be positive, think about this game obviously, and then have to work in the last (seven) weeks of the season because it's going to be a grind and we can't let it keep going that way."

As would be expected in a game like this, the Wings were serenaded with boos from the Little Caesars Arena crowd - and deservedly so. There was even one fan who threw a Wings' pullover on the ice.

"It's frustrating, you don't want to hear that, (but) that performance was worthy of the boos," Larkin said. "I don't agree with someone throwing their jersey on the ice but we show up like that at home, we'll get booed. We just have to come out and play way better that.

"Win battles, win battles in front of our net, and look like we want to be out there."

The lack of will, the lack of skating, were concerning aspects of the Wings' loss.

"When you work and compete, Detroiters will back you for sure," Blashill said. "If you go out and play like that, it's hard to blame them (fans) at all."

The lone bright spot for the Wings: forward Jakub Vrana returned to the lineup after shoulder surgery, played in his first game, and scored a power-play goal.

Detroit goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic looks up after being scored on by Arizona right wing Christian Fischer during the third period.

"He looked good, he's a guy who can score," Blashill said. "For the first game back in a long time, he played good, but it was hard to say in a game like that."

Robby Fabbri (power play) scored the other Wings' goal, Fabbri's 17th goal and third in three games.

But nearly every other aspect of the Wings' game was not good enough.

The team defense, particularly down low and around their goaltender, was shoddy on Arizona's first three goals, and a few others later.

The Wings have allowed at least five goals in five of the six losses during this eight-game stretch, including 10 goals to Toronto and Tuesday's nine to Arizona. In total, that's 45 goals allowed over the last eight games.

Offense has dried up a bit, with the Wings only scoring five goals in the last three losses.

Detroit defenseman Marc Staal and Arizona left wing Nick Ritchie battle for the puck during the second period.

And the goaltending, though not being helped with the defense in front of them, is struggling. Alex Nedeljkovic started Tuesday, was replaced by Thomas Greiss in the second period, but returned after Greiss allowed two goals on three shots. Nedeljkovic stopped 19 of 26 shots.

Defenseman Gustav Lindstrom was minus-six, Larkin and Lucas Raymond both minus-five on an evening where a lot of Wings struggled.

Larkin and Blashill both noticed a lack of confidence from the Wings. 

"We were not confident with the puck whatsoever," Blashill said. "We made a lot of poor puck decisions. You want to have success at the highest level, you have to be mentally tough. Our mental toughness is getting tested and we better figure it out fast."

More: Red Wings' Jakub Vrana 'super excited' to make season debut

Nick Schmaltz had two goals and two assists for Arizona, Jakob Chychrun had two goals, Barrett Hayton assisted on three goals, and Clayton Keller had a goal and two assists as quite a few Coyotes got healthy offensively.

Goalie Karel Vejmelka stopped 26 shots, as Arizona (17-35-4) climbed out of 32nd, into 31st, overall in the NHL.

Veteran Arizona forward Phil Kessel started and played 30 seconds — Kessel also nearly scored — before leaving the ice. The Coyotes arranged a charter flight to have Kessel fly back home for the birth of his first child.

By playing the shift, Kessel kept his consecutive games streak going at 956 games. It's the third-longest consecutive game streak in NHL history.


Twitter: @tkulfan