DETROIT — Even losing an overtime game to the rival Ottawa Senators couldn’t spoil the mood of a Detroit Red Wings team that earned 20 points this month to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The 3-2 loss to the Senators left Detroit with a 9-2-2 mark in January.
Red Wings (26-18-6) are in a wild card position, six points ahead of the closest team behind them and only one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division. This was a team that was just treading water at 17-16-4 on New Year’s Eve. Now, they have a shot at ending their seven-year playoff drought.
“This is going to be fun,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve put all of our energy and all of work in just getting us in the fight. Beginning of the year I think we were eight percent chance to be in this battle. Even at Christmas, we were in that single digit percentage to be in the battle, and now we’re here. Let’s see how we handle it. I’m really excited about watching us take a run at it the second half of the year.”
The encouraging aspect of the Red Wings’ January performance is that they only surrendered 29 goals (2.23 per game) in regulation in the 13 games. That’s nearly a goal per game less than they were giving up coming into the month. Alex Lyon’s goaltending has played a major role in the goals-against improvement.
Reducing Goals Against
“The big emphasis for us is keeping goals out of our net,” Detroit captain Dylan Larkin said. “I think we’ve done a good job with that. Obviously you’re gonna have the odd night but we always have a goal of two or less for the game. We’ve been right there a lot of times. Goaltending and penalty killing has helped that. I think our team defense is improved and our puck management. There’s not as much high risk, high reward. We’re doing it right and grinding teams down. I feel this month we’ve really learned what our game is and how to win hockey games.”
The Red Wings were trailing 2-1 going into the third, but tied the game on Larkin’s 23rd goal of the season at 11:15 of the period.
Dylan Larkin scored his 10th goal since January 7, tied with Elias Pettersson and Auston Matthews for the most in the NHL through that span.#NHLStats: https://t.co/PGEW6tUBTR pic.twitter.com/YqBxXG4PMp
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 1, 2024
“I wouldn’t say we were great tonight,” Lalonde said. “…A little credit to the opponent. I thought they played a very strong game. Good thing is that’s the really good team that’s going to beat a lot of teams we’re probably going to be battling with for those spots down the stretch. Being down 2-1, I thought we could have found ourselves in a little better situation after the second. The reality was, we were down a goal going into the third, you guys now the numbers, it’s very hard to get points. Then we were down under 10 on the penalty kill, so found a way to get a point. We’d like to get a little greedy there and get that extra point, but in reality a pretty good point and obviously, a pretty good month.”