DETROIT — The Red Wings played what coach Derek Lalonde called its “worst game of the year” Tuesday and still managed to pull out a 7-5 win against the Winnipeg Jets.
On Saturday, the Red Wings perhaps had what might be their most disheartening performance of the season. This time it resulted in a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jets are in a playoff position. The Columbus Blue Jackets came into the game with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings had an opportunity to take a three-game winning streak into a road trip that starts Monday afternoon in Colorado. Instead, they keep falling behind early because of inconsistent defensive coverage.
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They fell behind 4-0 in the second period to Columbus and then couldn’t score four goals in the third period, although the Red Wings sure tried.
Patrick Laine made the Red Wings pay for leaving the backdoor open most of the evening by netting his 10th career hat trick.
He scored two goals 2:43 apart in the first period, both times using his quick release to fire the puck into the net after pass to goalie Ville Husso’s back door. How did such dangerous scorer get that open? Lalonde was undoubtedly wondering the same thing. The Red Wings had four players watch Blue Jackets on the right wing side of the ice and Adam Erne inexplicably went to join them. Suddenly Laine was alone.
The Red Wings were down 3-0 after the first period and then Laine completed his hat trick at 1:32 of the first period to make it 4-0.
First period struggles have been the norm for Detroit lately. They fell behind 4-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, although they were able to come back and win that game. The Red Wings fell behind 3-0 to Buffalo and lost 6-3. They were down 2-0 to Ottawa before coming back to win that game 4-2.
Lucas Raymond scored with 4:04 left in regulation to make it a one-goal game.
Even down 4-0, the Red Wings had some hope of a comeback. The Blue Jackets team that gives up an average of 3.98 goals per game. That’s the second-worst GAA in the NHL this season. Olli Maatta was credited with the goal.
Detroit’s first goal came in the third period when Columbus right wing Mathieu Olivier inadvertently directed the puck into his own net with his skate. Then Jake Walman scored with a shot from the high slot to make it a two-goal game.
But their offensive charge came too late. They ran out of runway.
The distressful aspect for the Red Wings is the loss denies them the opportunity to carry momentum into the road trip. They play five of their next seven on the road. The loss also prevented the chance to pull them within three of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.