Stanley Cup champion Avalanche toy with Red Wings in 'frustrating' 5-1 loss

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There remains a sizeable talent gap between the Red Wings and Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche used productive afternoons from many of their stars Saturday in defeating the Red Wings 5-1 at Little Caesars Arena.

Colorado Avalanche left wing Matt Nieto (83) passes the puck past Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jordan Oesterle (82) during the second period.

Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, Mikko Rantanen scored his 46th goal, Cale Makar had three assists and Devon Toews had a goal. They all were keys in last year's championship run and were Saturday as the Avalanche (40-22-6) rolled to a fifth consecutive victory.

BOX SCORE: Avalanche 5, Red Wings 1

"Special teams were a big part of it," said coach Derek Lalonde of the Wings' loss, as Colorado scored a shorthanded and power-play goal with the game in the balance. "But probably a little bit of credit to their high-end guys. This will be frustrating, but a reality of where we are down the stretch here. The underlying numbers will say we played a pretty good game but we didn't execute and their difference makers were difference makers.

"We had some flashes of pretty good hockey but not enough."

Pius Suter had the Wings' goal, while goaltender Ville Husso stopped 16-of-21 shots before being replaced by Magnus Hellberg in the third period.

"The game felt a little out of reach and he (Husso) wasn't sharp," Lalonde said. "Five goals on (21 shots) is not ideal. It's a frustrating game for him but we're going to play him through it. We see a ton in Ville and we think he can be a real good goalie for us. He's shown that this year."

But Husso didn't get a lot of support defensively, as the Wings allowed a shorthanded goal to Lars Eller, and left Rantanen open, two Colorado goals 56 seconds apart that gave Colorado a third-period 5-1 lead and effectively ended any chance of a Wings' comeback.

"We didn't capitalize on our chances, our power plays, and the game is in a spot where we felt it was still reachable, we have a power play and we give up a shorty and another one right after, it's a lapse," captain Dylan Larkin said. "We felt Huss out to dry and we didn't capitalize on our chances."

The defeat continued a disappointing stretch of hockey for the Wings.

Since the Wings (30-29-9) defeated the New York Rangers Feb. 23 to climb above the playoff cutline, they've only won two of 11 games (2-8-1).

"We have to finish things out the right way," Larkin said. "We can't just go out there and not give it our all. We have fans coming to the rink, good crowds with good energy in the building and we have to show up and build on that and play hard."

Bowen Byram, a young player growing into Avalanche stardom, added a power-play goal, and Eller scored the shorthanded goal while goalie Alexandar Georgiev stopped 33 shots for a Colorado team that appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses.

"That's a special team," Lalonde said. "You can see them gearing it up, if you will. They get their injured guys back and slot them in correctly, they're going to have a real good chance to do it again. It was a great challenge for our team as a whole, and the for most part, we handled it real well."

Toews opened the scoring (fifth goal) in the first period with a shot from just inside the blue line that eluded a screened Husso at 5:01.

But the Wings answered, with Suter scoring his 12th goal at 6:55. Larkin gathered the puck and fed a trailing Suter, who snapped a well-placed shot over Georgiev tying the score.

It stayed that way through one period, but the Avalanche gradually took control with MacKinnon and Makar leading the way.

MacKinnon scored his 30th goal to break the 1-1 tie, then Byram scored a power-play goal at 17:37 of the second period, Makar assisting on both goals, as the Avalanche broke free.

Defenseman Simon Edvinsson, the Wings' 2021 first-round draft pick making his NHL debut, played 15 minutes, 34 seconds on 21 shifts with one shot, a minus-one rating, and one hit.

"It stinks to lose but it's a great experience," said Edvinsson, who was recalled Friday from Grand Rapids with the Wings' defense decimated with injuries. "It's awesome to play in front of the fans here."

Twitter: @tkulfan