A few weeks ago, the Detroit Red Wings would have lost the game, and afterward, lamented their inability to push back.
Now they’re finding ways to win.
They have four victories in their past five outings, the latest a 3-2 shootout rally Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks at Little Caesars Arena. Jimmy Howard was excellent, as were the special teams, and Dylan Larkin was rewarded for all the time he puts into practicing shootout moves.
“I think we’re learning as a team,” Justin Abdelkader said after contributing a power-play goal. “Hey listen, we’re down by a couple goals, we’re not getting down on the bench. We know that we just have to continue to go out and fight for that next goal. We got some momentum and started playing and had some chances and took over the game, I thought, for a while there.”
Analysis: Should Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill be worried after recent firings?
The Wings didn’t have a good first period, outshot 17-7, and fell behind when Elias Petterson scored. Ben Hutton made it to 2-0 on a goal the Wings challenged and lost, forcing them to kill a penalty.
“For a second game in a row we had too many unforced errors,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have to get the puck out of our zone better. But it’s good for our guys to stay on it. We got down 2-0, we did show some of that resilient nature.
“A big part of it is you need guys to step up when those things are happening, when it starts to go the wrong way, and certainly I thought Howie was a big factor in us being able to win it.”
The Wings used the momentum from the penalty kill to turn things around, with Abdelkader scoring after Larkin sent the puck to the slot to make it a 2-1 game going into the third period. Gustav Nyquist provided the tying goal at 1:37 when he drove the net and knocked in Jacob de la Rose’s rebound.
“With every win you get some confidence and we’ve managed to show that we can win these one-goal games here lately,” Nyquist said. “That builds confidence for the group.”
Howard made 40 saves and didn’t give up any goals in the shootout. He has given teammates a chance to win most starts, but hasn’t collected a win until the past couple weeks.
“We’re bending and not breaking,” he said. “Earlier in the season when stuff started to go wrong, the body language was off and things really exploded on us.
“It’s just going out there and working hard for 60 minutes, realizing that this game has a lot of ups and downs throughout the whole game and if you just continue to stick to it and keeping working, some nights you are going to get the bounces.”
Red Wings mailbag: The surprise of Dennis Cholowski & more
The Wings headed into the shootout without three of their best shootout performers, as Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou missed the game because of injuries.
Instead, it was Larkin who went first, injecting confidence into the atmosphere when he scored on Jacob Markstrom.
“Larks did a great job starting us off right away and I think that takes the pressure off everyone,” Abdelkader said. Neither he nor Nyquist scored.
Howard said, “Larks did a great move, it’s something he’s been working on a lot, worked a lot on it over the course of the summer and we’ve continued to work on it this year. It’s great to see him finally get one.”
Larkin has had a terrific start to the season, with six goals and nine assists. He played 20:59 minutes Tuesday, and made good on requests to join the shootout squad after going 0-for-7 his first three seasons.
“He was real happy when he scored not just because he wants to win the hockey game but because he wants to go again,” Blashill said. “His shootout percentage hadn’t been very good and he’d been in every coach’s ear saying he’d worked real hard at his shootout moves through the course of the summer. He’s been excellent in the shootouts we do in practice and it was a nice move and he scored so good for him, he gets to go again.”
Fans were on their feet when Bo Horvat was the last guy to go in the shootout.
While LCA is undergoing a black seat renovation to hide attendance problems, the Wings have, with victories in three of their past four home games, given those in attendance reason to stay in their seats.
“As everyone has grown accustomed to the arena here, they don’t have to go and check out the concourse as much,” Blashill said. “I think they still like the beers and the food down here in the clubs, but — it’s not as much of a museum for people, now it’s an ice rink, a real nice stadium. But part of our job as a team is to give them something to get excited about, so we have to go out there and perform. Every time we’ve been in a game that’s close or we’re leading, the crowd has been great.
“Our guys see that when we give our group something to cheer for, it can be a real great building. It’s been a great building here the last number of games when we’ve won.”
Analysis: Why Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin is such a ‘special player’
Contact Helene St. James: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.
Download our Red Wings Xtra app on Apple and Android!