The Detroit Red Wings looked like they had resolved their defensive issues with a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday. That turned out to be a false sense of security, as they lost to short-handed Carolina 5-3 on Thursday.
Detroit, which has lost four of its last five games, will try to tighten up its defense when the New Jersey Devils visit on Saturday night.
The Hurricanes scored three first-period goals and took the lead for keeps with an early third-period tally.
“We gave up four goals (before an empty-netter) and again, you can’t give up four and expect to win on the road,” coach Jeff Blashill said.
“We have to get that down. They were harder in the first period in front of the net. We didn’t give up a whole bunch after that in terms of chances at all. But again, we have to make sure you just can’t give up four on the road on a consistent basis and expect to win.”
Blashill, however, will not be behind the bench on Saturday. Blashill, assistant coach Alex Tanguay, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and forwards Givani Smith and Carter Rowney entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol on Saturday morning.
During the three losses prior to the Islanders game, the Red Wings allowed an average of six goals per game. Carolina found scoring opportunities despite having six players in COVID protocol.
“I don’t think there was any letdown of them having a short roster,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “If anything, it’s the opposite. Your eyes light up and go and grind because they’re going to be tired and we didn’t capitalize on that opportunity. We gave it to them, gave them goals and easy looks and they capitalized.
“They get on the power play to start the game and that’ll get them going. And from then on out, we gave it to them. It’s a frustrating feeling.”
Larkin scored his team-high 12th goal and added an assist.
“It starts with faceoffs and the first battle, and they were all over us,” Larkin said. “They battled and everything they got, we gave it to them.”
This is the first of three meetings with the Devils. The other two matchups will occur in April.
New Jersey has lost four straight and eight of its last nine. After a 7-3-2 start, the Devils have won just three of their last 16 games.
They fell to Vegas 5-3 on Thursday. New Jersey trailed 4-1 after two periods, cut the Golden Knights’ lead to one, then allowed an empty-netter.
“We needed to play a tight game. We made a couple mistakes that hurt us,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We battled hard to come back. We just left too many plays out there.”
Like most NHL teams, New Jersey has its share of players in COVID protocol. Captain Nico Hischier, fellow forward Jesper Boqvist and defensemen Ryan Graves and Christian Jaros missed Thursday’s game for that reason. Defenseman P.K. Subban, who sat out Thursday’s game as a precaution, entered the protocol on Saturday.
“It’s funny the way the game works. We’ve lost more than we would have liked lately, but there are stretches of games where we’re playing well,” forward Jimmy Vesey said.
“We just need to capitalize a little bit more or bear down a little more defensively. At the end of the day it’s not good enough. A couple mistakes cost us.”
–Field Level Media