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Five Takeaways: Red Wings Make Canucks Knuckle Under

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Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red-Wings
Alex Nedeljkovic's 43 saves were the most by a Red Wings goalie in a shutout in 63 years.

With Alex Nedeljkovic channeling Terry Sawchuk and Pius Suter ending his horrendous goal slump, the pieces were falling together nicely to allow the Detroit Red Wings to end a skid of their own.

And that’s exactly what they did. The Wings went into Vancouver and blanked the Canucks 1-0 behind 43 saves from Nedeljkovic and Suter’s second-period tally.

“We were confident with the puck and confident in what we were doing,” Nedeljkovic said.

Five takeaways from the outcome that brought to an end Detroit’s six-game losing streak.

Red Wings Find Formula To Bust Slump

The anatomy of Detroit’s recent slide isn’t a pretty sight. The Red Wings were 6-12-2 over their past 20 games when they took the ice on Thursday. They’d won twice in regulation over that span. They were showing a 4.53 goals-against average and 58.8% penalty kill rate, both worst in the NHL.

“We kind of cooled off here lately,” Nedeljkovic acknowledged.

Thursday, they won in the tighest way possible, making a solitary goal stand up for victory.

“It’s one that we can look back on as the year goes on and kind of tell ourselves that we can play in these low-scoring kind of games and play good defense,” Nedeljkovic said. “And I think we did play some really good defense tonight. We gave up some chances but they’ve got some high-end players over there.”

Detroit’s much-maligned PK went 3-for-3.

“It builds confidence for Alex, builds confidence for our penalty kill, builds confidence for our team,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “Winning helps confidence for sure but doing it in this fashion can certainly help build confidence.”

For Starters, A Strong First Period

Five minutes into Tuesday’s 7-5 loss at Edmonton, it was 3-0 Oilers. In Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Calgary, Detroit was held to one shot on goal in the first frame.

Even though Thursday’s opening period was scoreless, Detroit played strongly and outshot the Canucks 18-12.

“It goes back to starting on time,” Nedeljkovic said. “The last few games we’ve kind of struggled at getting started. You can’t do that in this league. You have to play a full 60 start to finish.

“Tonight, I think we came out ready to go. We stuck with it. There were some high points, some low points but we grinded through it and found a way to win.

Busiest Shutout Since 1959

Nedeljkovic parried 43 shots in earning his second shutout of the season.

“I thought he was in total command of his game,” Blashill said. “He played the puck really well. The puck stuck to him well. He found the puck through traffic well. And he made big saves at big moments.”

In doing so, Nedeljkovic toyed with Red Wings history. His 43-save effort was the most by a Detroit netminder since Terry Sawchuk blocked 50 shots as the Red Wings whitewashed the New York Rangers 4-0 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 14, 1959.

Between them, Wings goalies Nedeljkovic and Thomas Griess have stopped the last 70 shots that they’ve faced.

Pius Ping Pongs One In

Sometimes, even a fluke goal can set a player’s confidence back in a positive frame of mind. Suter had gone 12 games without a goal. His second-period tally banked off the stick of Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and into the net.

“Certainly scoring helps,” Blashill said. “You feel good about yourself mentally. But beyond that his process has been really good.”

“Sometimes you kind of go through tough stretches and I think he went through a tough stretch but I think he’s played really good the last couple of games.”

Leddy’s Red Wings Future Uncertain

The Red Wings were playing Thursday without veteran defenseman Nick Leddy. He sat out amidst speculation he’s on the brink of being traded.

“Ultimately, I spoke with (Detroit GM) Steve (Yzerman) and it was a management decision to hold him out,” Blashill explained.

Nedeljkovic was resigned to the potential of losing one of his most experienced defenders, while also holding out hope whatever deal is out there might fall through.

“If Leds moves on to somewhere else, we wish him the best of luck but I’m kinda hoping he stays,” Nedeljkovic said. “We love him in that room. He brings a really good element on the ice as well.”

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