DETROIT, Michigan – Justin Abdelkader broke a 2-2 tie with 4:36 to play in the third period, as the Red Wings rallied with three unanswered goals to defeat the Jets 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena.
Abdelkader beat Michael Hutchinson with a perfect shot, bar down, after Tomas Tatar intercepted a pass behind the net.
“Obviously [it’s] a play I’d like back,” Tyler Myers, who was the one victimized on the play, said post-game. “The guy made a good play on it. I took a look, and when I looked back to get the puck, he jumped on the pass. It hurts, but you move on.”
The Jets raced out a 2-0 lead in the first period, but couldn’t hang on as the home side turned it up in the final 40 minutes.
“We were really good in the first, they were good in the second and it was closer to even in the third in terms of quality of chances,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “We really struggled in that second period to move the puck, to move our feet. There was a whole list of things. Maybe we got overly pleased with ourselves after the first period, that we could toe-drag the game.”
On a positive note, it was a big night for Hutchinson, who kept the Jets in it with 32 saves.
“I’ve felt really good these last few games. I feel like I’m reading the play well, I’m battling hard trying to make those desperation saves when I need to,” the goalie said. “It’s frustrating when you’re not getting the result at the moment right now, but at the same time I’m happy with my game and I feel like I’m giving the guys a chance to win every night.”
Marko Dano opened the scoring with his first as a Jet at 11:21 of the first period. Spinning off a check down low, Mathieu Perreault fed a beautiful pass out front, where Dano made no mistake from the top of the circle, firing it high, over the shoulder of Petr Mrazek.
Dano is now on a modest, two-game point streak after recording an assist Tuesday against the Nashville Predators.
“In some ways it takes a little pressure off him,” Maurice said. “When you’re new to a team, you want to come in, make an impact and show what you can do. He hadn’t been able to put a lot of offence up, so a goal for a young player like that is huge.”
Myers put the Jets up by two with a gorgeous individual effort during 4-on-4 hockey at 16:31. Bottling up the Wings for more than a minute in their own end, Myers took a pass from Mark Scheifele, circled the zone, then made a ridiculous move at the mid-point, toe-dragging around Henrik Zetterberg before rifling a shot blocker side for his eighth of the year.
The red-hot Scheifele recorded the only assist, giving him 16 points (9G, 7A) in his last 11 games.
The Jets finished the period on an 8-3 run in shots, including an unsuccessful breakaway by Drew Stafford. They were outshot 23-14 the rest of the way.
“We were much better in the first than in the second, especially,” Myers said. “We got back to moving well in the third, but with the way we came out in the second, we took a step back. We’re going to become that 60-minute team, playing that consistent game and it’s a process we’ve got to keep working at.”
Calder candidate Dylan Larkin cut the deficit in half early in the second, squeezing a shot five-hole after getting the centering pass from Abdelkader at 6:41. Larkin, 19, is now up to 20 goals and 40 points on the year, just one back of Zetterberg for the team lead with 15 games to play.
Jonathan Ericsson tied things up with a lucky one at 12:25, filtering a shot through from the left point and having it bounce in off the skate of Paul Postma after Hutchinson made the initial, routine save.
The ice was heavily tilted in the middle frame, with the Jets getting outshot 13-6, giving the Wings a two-period total of 25. Hutchinson was brilliant, make save after save – many of them large – as the home side poured it on.
After a tough first half of the season, the 26-year-old has turned it on in a big way of late, crediting some adjustments to his positioning as a big reason why.
“I did some video with our goalie coach in Nashville a couple months ago and we looked at some film from last year,” Hutchinson said. “It’s really minor. Two inches out from the crease is the difference between a puck just nicking you, to them going in. Those are the little adjustments I’ve made, and then trusting my skating ability, getting out further and still being able to get to the cross-crease play or the rebound.”
Hutchinson had no chance on the winner.
The Jets will now return home for one, Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, before heading back on the road for pair, Monday in Vancouver, and Wednesday in Calgary.
LATE HITS: Byfuglien didn’t play the final 4:13 of the second period, appearing to be in some pain as he sat on the bench with his gloves off. He did return, but only took one (11-second) shift in the third before heading down the tunnel with 9:40 to play.
Maurice referred to it as an upper-body injury and he will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com