Sam Gagner hit a career milestone while the Detroit Red Wings posted back to back wins for the first time since February 12. Gagner banged home a shorthanded opportunity and Michael Rasmussen scored his fourth goal in five games as Detroit stunned Winnipeg 3-1 Wednesday night.
For a Red Wings team reeling from six straight losses just days ago, what a difference 48 hours make. After knocking off Boston last night, Detroit flew to Winnipeg on short rest and played spoiler, putting a significant dent in the Jets’ playoff hopes.
Gagner added his second goal of the evening on the empty netter, sealing off the victory. Both goals gave Gagner his 500th and 501st points of his career.
Not bad for a team that appeared to be limping its way to the end of the season.
“I think we’ve done a better job of that here lately with that level of sacrifice,” Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think a lot of guys and probably specifically some young guys have really raised their game.”
Scoring another dirty goal that ended up as the game winner, Rasmussen has been on a tear over his last five games. Still the defensive stalwart, it’s now his goal scoring that’s doing the talking as the 22-year-old registered his 12th of the season. Rasmussen was modest when asked about what has changed during his goal scoring binge.
“I try my best every night to compete as a hard as I possibly can and just play as hard as I can,” Rasmussen said. “I don’t know, they’re just kind of going in. I guess for maybe a little bit I was snakebit or whatever the situation was. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can every night, be a good teammate and just do well by my teammates.”
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) April 7, 2022
Gagner’s Impact Felt On and Off the Ice
It wasn’t just the pair of goals he scored, but Gagner’s shorthanded tally changed the momentum for a Red Wings team that came sluggish out of the gate. Being heavily outshot and killing a penalty, Dylan Larkin raced down the ice with the puck and passed it off to Gagner who whacked it past Connor Hellebuyck to give Detroit an unlikely 1-0 lead.
Blashill said it’s typical from a player like Gagner to quietly make his presence known.
“Sam’s been really good in a lot of ways,” Blashill said. “He’s really turned himself into an accountable 200-foot player. He’s got good poise. He’s really, really smart. He’s very, very thoughtful as a person but he’s also provided really good leadership. I think at times when it’s been easy for us to kind of point fingers and place blame, he’s a good who stood up and said, ‘We gotta look at ourselves first.’ And he’s done a real good job of that.”
After appearing to being in a tailspin, the Red Wings have righted course and beaten back two good teams in consecutive nights. The Jets especially needed the win and Detroit seized momentum in the middle of the second period and never looked back.
Though the playoffs are clearly an afterthought for the Red Wings, the change in demeanor is clear over the last couple of contests.
“I do think some guys have raised their urgency level (and) sacrifice level,” Blashill said. “I think we were in a rut where we were just kind of playing games. That’s not to say the guys weren’t working hard. I thought they were working hard. It wasn’t that same level of sacrifice and compete and work that you have to have when you’re trying to earn a playoff spot.
I think through large parts of the year we had that and I think we lost it for a stretch. I understand we’re not gonna earn that spot but we gotta play like we’re going to.”
Greiss Solid Between the Pipes
Thomas Greiss recorded his first win in the last six contests and was solid in doing so. Greiss hadn’t won since February 17, and had seen his share of struggles over the last month and a half.
Along with the six game losing streak, that’s now filed away.
Greiss had 32 saves and won the tightly contested battle between he and Hellebuyck. The performance helped Greiss backstop the victory and Blashill thought the team fed off of it as well.
“I thought early on we weren’t good enough,” Blashill said. “But Greisser gave us a chance to kind of get going and I thought as we went along a number of guys were good. Someone’s gotta kind of grab it and Greisser grabbed it early and I thought as it went along a number of guys grabbed it.”
Power Play Closer but Still No Dice
It’s still a work in progress, obviously.
Rough PP. 0-for-21.
12:32 left in regulation.
— George Malik (@georgemalik) April 7, 2022
The difference though is that the Red Wings had clear, high danger chances. Add in a sequence where they controlled the puck with an extra skater prior to being awarded a power play and there were certainly some building blocks for the specialty teams.