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Red Wings-Avalanche wrap-up—the kind of game the Wings need(ed) to play

The Red Wings were admittedly rallied to some extent over the course of their 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche by this little video recalling the Brawl in Hockeytown, as Dylan Larkin told the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan...

“It was awesome,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “The video they played was real cool. It got the fans fired up. I wish they’d played it a little bit earlier in the game, maybe the first period. I definitely got chills watching it. There were a lot of smiles (on the bench).”

Larkin appreciates, even now, playing against the Avalanche.

“To be part of that rivalry is pretty cool,” Larkin said. “To play here, and their last game at The Joe. Obviously it’s a great rivalry.”

And it took until the 3rd period, but the Red Wings warmed to the task of battling the Avs, scoring 4 goals on 8 shots.

Our friends from Colorado shared the same feelings of nostalgia regarding days past, as they told the Windsor Star's Bob Duff, moonlighting for the Denver Post...

“It was a lot of fun watching the highlights of all those old Red Wings-Avalanche games on the scoreboard,” MacKinnon said. “I wish I had gotten to play more times in this building, but the one thing I took away from that is that we need to get this franchise back to that level. We want to be playing in huge games like that again.”

Well, that could be awhile. On both counts.

A third-period collapse saw the Avalanche, tied 1-1 early in the third period, fall easily to the Wings by a 5-1 count. It was the first time Detroit had won back-to-back games since Feb. 18-19, something the Avs have accomplished just once in their last 20 games.

It’s a good thing these two teams have a past to reflect back on, because the present is nothing to look at and the future, well, that at best can be described as uncertain.

And after all was said and done, the Avalanche, who hung around and hung around some more until the Wings' 3rd period explosion, could only survey the carnage:

“It’s just a frustrating loss again, because we have a chance to scratch and claw our way back into that and we stayed with our game the whole time up until that point,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “When we finally got that one I thought maybe we’d finally get a little traction. But then we had a couple of breakdowns that took the wind out of our sails.”

The Avalanche were held to one goal for the 16th time this season. They’ve also been shut out in a dozen other games.

“This is a really tough way to finish a season,” Avalanche forward John Mitchell said. “We’re a proud group of guys, and it isn’t fun to be in this situation. We just have to finish as well as we can and get ready for next season.”

The Avs continued while speaking with BSN Denver's Adrian Dater...

A 1-1 game in the third period, after Nathan MacKinnon tied it up at 3:44, turned into an embarrassing final 16 minutes. As historical analogies go, it felt like the first period of Game 7 here, 2002 Western Conference finals. One goal after another whizzed by Avs goalie Calvin Pickard, who was done no favors by a soft, careless defense in front of him most of the day.

The killer goal, by Tomas Tatar 5:20 of the period, came following an Erik Johnson turnover just outside the Avs’ blue line, to Luke Glendening. Johnson compounded the problem by falling down in his attempt to get back, leading to an odd-man rush that Tatar finished off into a wide open net past an over-committed Pickard.

Pickard, who stopped only 18-of-23 shots, was beaten to the far post by Tatar coming down the left wall at 6:56 to make it 3-1. The Avs, frankly, just looked like quitters after that. Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist added additional goals and the jubilant Joe crowd walked into the cold late afternoon air happy people.

The best Avs coach Jared Bednar could muster about his team’s battle level was that it was “Just OK.”

“I didn’t like our collapse at the end of that game,” Bednar said. “I liked some parts of our game; We did some good things offensively, some things good defensively. I thought after we got that one that we’d get some traction, but then a couple of breakdowns took the wind out of our sails.”

Bednar was being too kind to his team’s offensive effort the first two periods. The Avs had a few chances, but didn’t work hard enough around the net and made soft plays coming into the zone. Neither Matt Duchene nor Gabe Landeskog had a shot on net all day.

Now it’s on to Chicago for the Avs, against one of the hottest teams in the league. Twelve games remain in this nightmare of a season. The Avs could have made Game No. 69 a memorable one with a win and season sweep of the Wings. But just like most of this season, the battle seemed over before it really even began.

And MacKinnon summarized the Avs' effort to the Associated Press...

"I thought we played pretty well for a while, but we couldn't get anything to go in," MacKinnon said. "Once we got a break on that goal, I thought we might get going again, but it fell apart."

"We just made too many mistakes down the stretch," he said.

And the AP duly noted that both the rivalry and the Red Wings have faded a bit:

The Wings, who will move into Little Caesars Arena next season, finished with a 31-23-1 edge over the Avs at the JLA.

The score was 1-all in the third period when Tomas Tatar, who has sparked the Red Wings lately, scored twice in a span of 1:36. Tatar gave Detroit a 2-1 lead at 5:20 of the final period, then took a pass from Gus Nyquist and scored his 20th goal of the season.

Tatar, who scored just four goals in his first 31 games of season, has tallied five in the past five games.

"Obviously, you don't want to get these up and downs, you would like to be more consistent," Tatar said. "I guess that's just how the league is. When you're hot or the puck's going the right direction, you're just finding the net," he said.

Larkin and Nyquist also scored third-period goals for the Wings, who won back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 18-19.

NHL.com's Dave Hogg's recap will serve as our pivot point between the Avalanche's and Red Wings' perspectives:

"This is what we've needed all season," he said. "When we get a lead, we need the extra goals to calm everything down."

The Avalanche (20-47-3) played their final game at Joe Louis Arena, two decades after the rivals faced each other in the 1997 Western Conference Final. Detroit won that series in six games. The Red Wings (28-31-11) move to Little Caesars Arena next season.

"It was fun to watch all the old highlights," said Nathan MacKinnon, who scored Colorado's only goal. "We need to get this franchise back to a place where it is playing huge games like that."

Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist each had a goal and an assist, and Jimmy Howard made 23 saves for Detroit.

"It was great to see this offense," Howard said. "There were a lot of games this year where the effort was there for 60 minutes, but we couldn't put anything on the scoreboard."

Calvin Pickard made 18 saves for Colorado.

"I just wasn't good enough in the third," he said. "Once they got their second goal, everything kind of snowballed."

The Red Wings were happy with their 3rd period play, but they weren't exactly jubliant after the game, as Reuters noted:

Tatar scored only four times through the first 31 games of the NHL season. Lately, though, he's held the hot hand, with five goals in his last five games and eight over his last 13.

"I've been talking about it all season," Tatar said. "Obviously you don't want to get these up and downs, you would like to be more consistent. I guess that's just how the league is. Obviously I'm trying to work on it, to be more consistent. When you're hot or the puck's going the right direction, you're just finding the net."

Detroit carried a 1-0 lead into the third on a second-period power-play goal by Justin Abdelkader, but the Avalanche knotted the count 3:44 into the third. Tyson Barrie's low point shot hit Nathan MacKinnon on the leg and bounded into the net past Red Wings goalie JImmy Howard.

That's when Tatar took over. He finished off a two-on-one break with Luke Glendening at 5:20, and then he made it 3-1 with his 20th goal of the season at 6:56, taking a pass from Gustav Nyquist and hammering a one-timer past Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard.

...

Dylan Larkin increased the margin to 4-1 at 12:46 when a loose puck found its way to him from a goalmouth scramble and he blasted a high shot into the net during a Detroit power play. It was the first time all season the Red Wings, who are 29th in the NHL with the man advantage, had scored multiple power-play goals in consecutive games. They scored twice on the power play in Thursday's 5-4 shootout win at Arizona.

"I think now it seems to be working in the past few games," Larkin said. "It's just funneling pucks to the net. A few of the goals today were just shots that happened to go in. Maybe they weren't going in during the first half of the year but now it certainly is winning us games."

Nyquist rubbed further salt into Colorado's wound, tallying his 10th of the season at 16:18.

"I feel like this is what we needed through the season," Tatar said. "When we get the lead, we need always that extra one, that calms the whole team, it's a two-goal lead all of a sudden. You're playing with more confidence."

Blashill was happy with Tatar's play, as he told MLive's Ansar Khan...

"I thought earlier in the year he was playing good, he just wasn't scoring," Blashill said. "It wasn't from a lack of chances. Somebody told me he led the league in posts hit in the first part of the year. I don't think his play has been a whole lot different. I just think now they're going in, and that happens sometimes with guys. That's a good line with Zetterberg and Nyquist."

Jimmy Howard, who made 23 saves, appreciates the offensive support, which he didn't receive earlier this season, and Tatar's determination.

"He's one of those guys that doesn't shy away from going in the dirty areas," Howard said. "He always continues to go there and gets open in the middle of the ice and pucks have been going in for him."

Said Tatar: "Obviously, you don't want to get these up and downs, you would like to be more consistent."

That's true both individually and collectively, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:

“We played real good hockey in the third period,” said Tatar, who reached the 20-goal mark with his two goals. “It was just a good effort by the whole team.”

Dylan Larkin added a power-play goal and Gustav Nyquist scored the capper, sending the Red Wings (28-31-11, 67 points) to their second consecutive victory.

Colorado is a league-worst 20-47-3 (43 points).

“We’ve talked about it a lot, these aren’t easy times,” said coach Jeff Blashill, as the regular season winds down with the playoffs miles away. “Character comes through and it was awesome to watch as a group. We didn’t play perfect, but they played hard, too. It was kind of back and forth and we continued to dig in and I was happy about that.”

It was the second consecutive game with five goals for the Red Wings as the offense finally has found some traction.

“It’s great to see,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who stopped 23 shots for the victory. “A lot of times this year the effort has been there for 60 minutes, but we just weren’t on the score sheet. It’s great to see pucks going in for us.”

Henrik Zetterberg agreed, as he told the Free Press's Helene St. James:

“It is good for us to show ourselves that we are capable of winning two games, score some goals,” Zetterberg said. “Overall, pretty decent play. It’s good.”

The Wings took a 1-0 lead late in the second period off a power play goal from Abdelkader, but the Avs responded early in the third when Tyson Barrie’s shot through traffic deflected in off Nathan MacKinnon. That seemed to stir the Wings, as they showed great hustle to rebuild their lead, and then some. Credit Luke Glendening for his hard work setting up Tatar’s first goal, as Glendening beat Erik Johnson and drew Calvin Pickard out of his net to challenge, giving Tatar a wide open net in which to deposit the puck after getting the pass.

“It was unbelievable effort by Luke,” Tatar said. “I kind of read it like it might bounce, but the effort he did was outstanding.”

...

“I feel like this is what we needed through the season,” Tatar said. “When we get the lead, we need always the extra one. That calms the whole team. You are playing with more confidence. That is big.”

Fans booed when officials kept Glendening and Blake Comeau from fighting, but had something else to cheer when Larkin fired the puck top shelf at 12:44 during a power play as the Wings converted twice for the second straight game. Nyquist piled on with a goal at 16:18.

The start had all the earmarks of the Wings having played back-to-back, arriving home from Phoenix in the early hours of Friday. They managed just six shots the first period.

“We knew it was going to be a tough start for us after the day we had yesterday,” Zetterberg said. “Just wanted to survive the first. We did.”

The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness penned a recap which focused on the Wings' revived power play...

“I think now it seems to be working in the past few games,” Larkin said. “It’s just funneling pucks to the net. A few of the goals were just shots that happened to go in. Maybe they weren’t going in during the first half of the year, but now it certainly is winning us games.”

Detroit’s power play still ranks second to last in the league, scoring 13.8 percent of the time.

“I thought it has been a lot better the last month I would say, even though we haven’t gotten results, I think we’ve created a lot of good things and our consistency is better, so it’s nice to see us get some goals,” Henrik Zetterberg said.

The Wings have registered two power play goals in eight games this season. In 47 games, they’ve been held without a power play tally.

“(Confidence) is what we needed,” Tomas Tatar said. “Without the power play, you can’t win the games. You need these goals to get you going in a certain point of the game, and I feel like the last few games our power play’s working, which is huge, and that’s why we’re getting points as well.”

Detroit now has five power play goals over its last four games.

And DetroitRedWings.com's Dana Wakiji will take us out with a due note that Jimmy Howard played well enough to keep the Wings in the game for the first 40 minutes:

Jimmy Howard : After getting in early Friday morning from Arizona and then having to play a 1 p.m. game Saturday, the Wings took a little while to really get going. Howard made sure to keep his team in it, making some strong saves on Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Barrie and Sven Andrighetto. Only Barrie's shot from the point that deflected off of Nathan McKinnon's skate at 3:44 of the third eluded Howard, who finished with 23 saves.

Quotable: "He's played really good. It's hard to be out that long. It's hard to predict that a guy is going to come back and play as good as he has. He's certainly put the work in to be ready. He kind of looks like he did before he left. Before he got hurt, the puck was sticking to him, he was real sound from a technical standpoint and he's not letting any easy ones in. Between him and Petr (Mrazek) both guys are playing real good." - Blashill

Quotable II: "I'm just trying to be patient, calm, not try and overdo anything. Basically just try and play the way I was playing before I got injured." - Howard

Multimedia:

Highlights: NHL.com posted a 3:37 highlight clip...

And a 5:34 "Condensed game":

Post-game: The Avs' website posted clips of Nathan MacKinnon, Calvin Pickard and coach Jared Bednar's post-game comments;

Fox Sports Detroit posted Tomas Tatar's post-game interview with Trevor Thompson:

The Red Wings' website posted post-game comments from Henrik Zetterberg...

Tomas Tatar...

Dylan Larkin...

Jimmy Howard...

And coach Jeff Blashill:

Fox 2 Detroit posted a combined clip of the above-listed comments:

MLive's Brendan Savage posted a clip of Larkin and Blashill talking about the Wings-Avs rivalry, and the Free Press's Helene St. James posted a blended clip of Zetterberg, Larkin, Howard and Blashill's remarks.

Photos: The Free Press posted a 6-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted an 8-image gallery;

MLive posted a 22-image gallery;

Michigan Hockey posted a big photo gallery on their website:

ESPN posted a 15-image gallery;

And NHL.com and the Red Wings' website posted 29-image galleries.

Statistics:

Here's the Game Summary...

And the Event Summary

Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: Regarding Darren Helm, from the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan:

Helm took a hit from Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson as Helm was receiving a pass from Anthony Mantha.

Helm’s left leg seemed to buckle while absorbing the hit and he immediately went to the dressing room, unable to put any weight on the leg. Returning to the bench later in the period, Helm attempted to skate during a timeout but was noticeably hampered and returned to the dressing room.

The Red Wings termed it a “lower body” injury.

Blashill wasn’t sure if Helm would be available for Monday’s game against Buffalo, saying Helm was day-to-day.

“I don’t know more than that,” Blashill said. “I can’t necessarily say that I expect him Monday or not. I just don’t know.”

Update: From the Windsor Star's Bob Duff:

For the second straight game, the Wings recalled a player who didn’t play. Thursday in Arizona, it was defenseman Brian Lashoff. Saturday, it was forward Tomas Nosek who was hailed from AHL Grand Rapids on an emergency recall.

Blashill would only say that a couple of unnamed forwards were feeling under the weather but were able to answer the bell, so Nosek wasn’t needed and was returned to Grand Rapids.

With Helm’s injury, it’s possible he could turned around and on his way back to Detroit in time for Monday’s game, and if that turns out to be the case, Blashill won’t hesitate to insert Nosek.

“First of all, to me Nosie is a guy who can play in the NHL 100 per cent,” Blashill said. “I thought when he played last year he did very well. He’s a guy who can be a good penalty killer, he’s got skill level but he plays a two-way game, he’s strong on the puck, just a guy who can manage his minutes real well and still produce offensively

“He’s certainly somebody who I know is fighting for a spot to be here next year. There’s no question in my mind he can play in the NHL. Does he make you better to a degree better than other guys? That’s the question that remains to be seen.”

Also from Duff, writing for the Denver Post:

Coming nearly 20 years to the day of the infamous March 26, 1997 brawl between the Avalanche and Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the farewell tilt between these two old rivals in the building was about as tame as the rivalry has grown to be, a meek 5-1 loss by the Avs.

With both teams about to miss the playoffs for the first time since the Avalanche moved to Denver in 1995, there isn’t quite the intensity that seethed from every pore of both teams while they were splitting five Stanley Cups between them from 1996-2002.

“Growing up in my young adult life watching those games and watching those teams play, I loved the competitive fire that those teams played with,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “I think it’s one of the best rivalries in the game. The passion, the intensity that they brought to every game they faced each other, I think is so good for the game.

“That’s why I like that Wednesday night rivalry night on (NBCSN) TV. Those bring so much passion, not just to the players but to the fan bases as well. I think it’s great for the game.”

Detroit coach Jeff Blashill was born and raised in Michigan, so those old Avalanche-Red Wings tilts were must-see TV for him.

“I lived on this rivalry,” Blashill said. “It was unreal. It was great for the NHL, as good for the NHL as any rivalry as we’ve had here in the last 30 years. It was incredible. The emotions involved. The emotions are still like that. We played an alumni game last year and there was probably still some emotion involved in that. So I think it’s awesome.”

The Avalanche went 23-31-1 at JLA — 15-22-1 during the regular season and 8-9 in the playoffs.

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Comments

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With guys like Nosek in GR, and Blashill telling the media that he can play in the NHL, why did KH sign guys like Miller again. This season would have been a perfect opportunity to bring a few guys like him along but, by signing Miller again, they stymied that possibility and for what?  These are the kinds of baffling moves that have caused me to lose faith in KH.

Winning today was nice but getting a high draft pick is critical to a rebuild and the two are incompatible. They need more than tweaks and getting a gig draft pick should be s good start.

Posted by NewfieWing on 03/19/17 at 12:47 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

I know we need to lose, but I really enjoy beating Colorado, no matter how much they actually suck.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 03/19/17 at 11:37 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.