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Red Wings' patience tested during eight-game winless streak

Encouraging signs not enough in OT loss to Blues

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have tried to keep a winning culture while rebuilding, and they came into this season hoping to surprise people.

So they can't take too many positives out of a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday.

Yes, after seven straight regulation losses, the Red Wings fought back from trailing 3-1 in the third period and earned a point against the defending Stanley Cup champions. They outshot the Blues 16-5 in the third. Forward Tyler Bertuzzi called it their best period of the season. 

"If we keep doing that and doing the right things that way, the wins are going to come," Bertuzzi said.

Still, the Red Wings had a 4-3 lead when they took a penalty for too many men at 15:19 of the third.

"That's a joke," coach Jeff Blashill said. "There's no possible way that can happen at that point. So ultimately that's my responsibility, so I'll take responsibility for it."

They gave up the tying goal to center Ryan O'Reilly on the ensuing power play at 15:42, then the winning goal to forward David Perron at 1:28 of OT.

And remember: They were rested at home while the Blues were playing the second game of a back-to-back set on the road, having lost to the Boston Bruins 3-0 at TD Garden on Saturday in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues probably sat back too much with a two-goal lead.

"We all believe in each other, and the talk in the room in the past little bit is, it's got to be the guys in here to turn this around and to get that win out of the way," center Dylan Larkin said. "We were close tonight, but unfortunately against the defending Stanley Cup champions, close isn't good enough."

Larkin's right. No one is coming to save the Red Wings, at least in the short term, and close isn't good enough. At least it shouldn't be by the standard here. 

The Red Wings made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 25 straight seasons from 1990-91 to 2015-16. But they missed the playoffs each of the past three seasons, and this is already their third eight-game winless streak in a season since the calendar flipped to 2018.

Video: O'Reilly, Perron help Blues top Red Wings in overtime

Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings legend who took over as general manager April 19, has been quiet about his plans and has not given a timeline for a turnaround. That's his personality. That's also smart. There is no quick fix.

After going without a top-10 pick in the NHL Draft from 1992-2016, the Red Wings have had one three years in a row, taking forward Michael Rasmussen No. 9 in 2017, forward Filip Zadina No. 6 in 2018 and defenseman Mortiz Seider No. 6 in 2019.

But each is playing for Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, and none is ready for the NHL. Rasmussen, 20, had seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games before sustaining an injury. Zadina, 19, has three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games. Seider, 18, has two points (two assists) in eight games.

In the long term, management must be patient with those prospects and others. It's all about drafting and developing and building.

In the short term, the coaches and players at the NHL level have to push through this and show Yzerman they can be part of the solution.

At least the Red Wings put the puck in the net Sunday, which should help their confidence. In their seven straight regulation losses, they scored nine goals total and never more than two in a game.

Larkin, who had no points in his past five games, got a goal and an assist.

Forward Andreas Athanasiou, who had two points in nine games, defenseman Mike Green, who had one point in 11 games, and forward Taro Hirose, who had one point in his past seven games, each got an assist.

Forward Valtteri Filppula came into the game with no points in eight games; he got a goal when a pass went in off a skate.

"I think there's lots to be improved," Filppula said. "Play better. Try to do more. Help the team."

That goes for everyone.

The Red Wings rank near the bottom of the NHL in several major categories, including goals per game (2.25), goals against per game (3.75), power play (12.8 percent) and penalty kill (69.2 percent).

"We need an extra save here; we need an extra play made here, whether it's defensive or offensively," Blashill said. "I just think everybody's got to dig in and be a little bit better."

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