Wings lose 2-0 to Avalanche as fights stir memories of rivalry
Third period action: Above left, Detroit’s Anthony Mantha fights with Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth; above center, Red Wings Dylan Larkin, left, Tyler Bertuzzi, Luke Glendening, Michael Rasmussen and Luke Witkowski push away Colorado’s Matt Calvert after the Avalanche left wing got his stick held by Glendening during the third period, and above right, Larkin takes on Calvert by himself.
Was it 2018 or 1998 at Little Caesars Arena Sunday night?
It seemed like 20 years ago when the Red Wings’ 2-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche turned nasty in the third period with several big hits, two fights and a scrum in front of Detroit’s bench that pulled in players not even on the ice.
The fighting brought back memories of the fierce rivalry between the two teams from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. One of the most memorable was an all-out battle in 1997 that saw goaltenders Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon exchanging punches on the ice.
Sunday's game didn’t quite reach that level.
Things started to heat up in the first two minutes of the third period with the Wings down 1-0 when Colorado defenseman Ian Cole laid a hard, high hit on Andreas Athanasiou at center ice, just after Athanasiou had passed the puck. Athanasiou stayed on the ice for a couple of seconds before making his way to the bench.
Tyler Bertuzzi responded immediately and engaged Cole in a fight that Bertuzzi would have won on a majority decision.
Less than three minutes after they got fighting majors, Anthony Mantha dropped the gloves with Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth. Mantha also would have won by decision.
Blashill did not mind that two of his top offensive players had to sit for five minutes each with the team down a goal in the third.
“We’ll go a lot further with us sticking up for each other than any downside of losing some guys who are real good players,” Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said. “But we’re going to win in this room as a group, and we’re going to win fighting for each other and sticking up for each other.”
Around the 8:30 mark, Colorado right wing Mikko Rantanen tried to step into Dylan Larkin at center ice. But Larkin turned the tables and knocked Rantanen to the ice.
And with a little over seven minutes left, Wings defenseman Mike Green tried to lay a hit on Colorado’s Matt Calvert along the boards next to the Detroit bench. But Green went down and Calvert got into a scuffle with the Wings on the bench, and players from both teams joined in to make it a genuine scrum.
No penalties were given out.
Just before Colorado scored an empty-net goal, Tomas Vanek took a high stick to the face that was not called on the face-off.
Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov said Sunday’s physicality did not compare to that 20 years ago.
“That was a fun game, because it was such a physical game,” he said. “But that's still not like these teams used to play in the old days. Those were crazy.”
As far as the regular part of Sunday’s game was concerned, Semyon Varlamov stopped all 24 Detroit shots. The NHL’s second-leading scorer, Nathan MacKinnon, and teammate Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and an assist each.
Teammate and linemate Ratanen, the league’s leading point producer, set up MacKinnon for a power-play goal in the second period, and linemate Landeskog added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Colorado extended its point streak to 11 games (9-0-2) and won its seventh in the last eight.
Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves for Detroit, which was playing the second of back-to-back games. The Wings won 4-2 in Boston on Saturday night.
“I thought our effort was really good,” Blashill said. “I thought our compete level was really high, I thought our physicality was really good. We certainly weren’t perfect, but I thought we did a number of good things. (We) had chances to score (and) didn’t score, but I thought our compete level and our physicality was really good.”
Their punches weren’t bad, either.
Defenseman Trevor Daley missed his second game due to a lower-body injury.