Special teams cost Detroit Red Wings in 4-1 loss to Chicago Blackhawks


Perhaps it was the routine that was disrupted and certainly to give credit to the opponent.

But the Red Wings didn’t look right on Friday when they lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wings badly lost the special teams battle which didn’t help as they fell to 2-3 for the season.

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Hagel, right, passes the puck while Detroit Red Wings' Dylan Larkin (71) and Marc Staal defend in the first half.

“We are hockey players, we have a lot of people who have been in the NHL for a while, we are professionals,” said striker Dylan Larkin, who scored the goal for the Lone Wings. “We have to show up and play. Our start was good, we just didn’t get the puck past the goalkeeper and we made it too easy for them to get comfortable.”

“We forced too much and gave them too much, only unnecessary sales.”

Larkin scored his third goal of the season, a great individual performance, after 12 minutes and 22 seconds in the third half and reduced the lead to 3-1.

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But the Blackhawks Mattias Janmark (empty net) scored a shorthanded goal to consolidate the result as the Wings failed to build further momentum despite Larkin’s goal despite a power game.

Patrick Kane (power play), Calvin de Haan and Andrew Shaw (power play) also had goals in Chicago, while goalkeeper Kevin Lankinen stopped 30 shots when the Blackhawks won their first game (1-3-1).

It was also Lankinen’s first NHL win in his second career start that withstood a good wings start and scored important saves early on.

BOX SCORE: Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 1

“Puck management and special teams,” said trainer Jeff Blashill of the Wings’ main culprits on Friday. “We grounded ourselves by flipping pucks through the neutral zone and trying to complicate things by forcing games that weren’t there.

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“We hurt ourselves too much. And you (lose the lead) in special teams, it’s hard to win.”

There were many reasons the wings were out of sync.

The Red Wings were without five players who were on the COVID-19 log – striker Filip Zadina (who was added Friday afternoon), Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne and Sam Gagner, and defenseman Jo Merrill.

The practice was changed and moved into small groups on Thursday when it was discovered that Gagner and Merrill had been added to the protocol list.

On top of that, the Wings flew into Chicago on Friday morning and didn’t have a morning skate, which further improves an NHL team’s usual schedule.

But they insisted that these reasons didn’t matter.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be a normal year,” said Larkin. “We have to be prepared for the unexpected. We had some difficulties on our way, but we showed up.”

Blashill wouldn’t use the abnormal 24 to 48 hours as an excuse.

“It can’t,” said Blashill. “If there was a little inconvenience, it doesn’t mean you can’t turn the puck and play it right. We took a step back tonight and played wrong.”

Carolina has five players missing due to COVID-19 protocol and the Hurricanes have canceled games through Saturday. The Wings now have five players too, but there was no talk of postponing the game on Friday.

And Blashill wouldn’t want any postponements.

“We want to keep playing,” said Blashill. “We waited a long time (10 months) to be in this position. We have to go out and play better than us. We had good enough players to win the hockey game. We have no excuses.”

The wings were sloppy in power play, scoring no goal in five attempts, while Chicago scored two power play goals.

The power play looked rushed and sloppy, but after Larkin’s goal the Wings had an opportunity to fill the void further with a power play opportunity. But they couldn’t convert and ultimately allowed the empty net target.

“We have to go out and find a way,” said Larkin of that last attempt at power play when he was part of the top wing unit. “We have to make the five guys there responsible and expect more. We have to become a dangerous unit.”

The wings are back in Chicago on Sunday (12:30 p.m. / NBC / 97.1).

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Twitter: @tkulfan