Red Wings end season with victory, as coach Jeff Blashill's future becomes main topic
The Red Wings didn't just show up for the final game of the regular season.
They went into New Jersey and came out with a spirited victory, as Pius Suter scored at 10:33 of the third period, sending the Wings to a 5-3 victory.
Suter's shot, his 15th goal, barely crossed the line past Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, and video replay finally determined it was a legal goal, giving the Wings their fourth lead of the evening.
Tyler Bertuzzi added an empty-net goal, his 30th, with 10 seconds remaining.
Getting his first start of the season, goaltender Magnus Hellberg stopped 20 shots to earn the victory.
"I was happy for Bert. He got his 30th (goal), for Magnus to step in and win a game after being with us, that was great," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Obviously Seider gets his 50th point (on an earlier goal). Other than that, it's just way better to walk into the locker room with a win."
Joe Veleno scored 54 seconds into the third period, Veleno's eighth goal, giving the Wings a 3-2 lead. But New Jersey's Fabian Zetterlund tied it with his third goal, at 6:57.
Eleven Detroit players registered at least one point in the victory.
The Wings finished the season at 32-40-10.
Hellberg, signed late in the season, got his first start of the season and looked comfortable, making several timely saves in the third period, including a pair of good stops in the final minute after the Devils pulled Blackwood in favor of an extra skater.
"He did a good job," Blashill said. "One of the reasons we didn't play him earlier was because we were in a spot at the end of the year (where) we haven't practiced hardly at all. He didn't get a full practice in; we finally had one (Thursday), so that was good for him, and he got himself back game ready. He came in and did a good job."
Hellberg was playing his first game in more than two months, but he looked relatively sharp.
"It's a great feeling to win," Hellberg said. "Last game of the season, it was a lot of fun out there. I enjoyed it.
"I felt pretty good right off the bat. It's been a while since I played but it was good. The guys played great in front of me; they let me see the pucks."
Hellberg was only signed for the duration of this season. But Hellberg made it clear he wouldn't mind staying in the organization next season.
"Of course," Hellberg said. "I've been here for a few weeks and got to see the facilities, the staff around the team, the guys. Detroit has a real bright future and it would be a place I would like to be (part of). We'll see what happens. I can only do just my part.
"I've had a blast these last couple of weeks I've been here."
Seider and Michael Rasmussen added Wings goals.
Dawson Mercer and Nolan Foote scored for the Devils.
There was plenty of talk this week about the importance of these final games for the Wings, particularly with so much uncertainty surrounding some of the Wings' roster.
"You don’t know how many years you have in this league, how many chances you get to play games," forward Sam Gagner said. "That’s the way you have to look at it. You have to be excited about every chance you get to play in this league."
Now, the attention will be focused on Blashill's future, who Friday completed his seventh season with the Wings. Blashill has a record of 204-261-72.
The Wings missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season under Blashill. After a good first half, which sparked hopes of an unexpected playoff berth, the Wings slumped badly over the final two months of the season, finishing far from the playoffs.
General manager Steve Yzerman is expected to meet with Blashill soon, to discuss Blashill's future with the team.
"No, nothing," said Blashill, when asked about whether he has any meetings set with Yzerman. "We've just been focused on the season. The game has just ended, so I plan on watching girls' lacrosse and boys hockey (Saturday, his children's games). I've been focused on the game (Friday) and I have a sports-filled weekend with youth sports."
Despite a brutal second-half slide that derailed the Wings' hopes, Blashill felt there was positives to take out of the season.
"We stayed in the playoff race longer than we have in the last couple of years, probably since we started the rebuild," Blashill said. "We had as much hope as we've had. That's a positive. A big piece of that was being able to have an influx of talent, young guys like Seider and (Lucas) Raymond. They've had huge impacts. Seider, for me, is hands down the Calder (Trophy) winner with the minutes he's had, the defensive and offensive responsibilities he's had.
"We had some guys who had real good offensive years in (Dylan) Larkin and Bertuzzi. Larks was back to being a real impactful offensive player and Bert took another step in his offensive game."