Bernier, Howard blank NJ; Athanasiou joins Larkin with 30th goal
Despite losing ground in the Jack Hughes sweepstakes, the Red Wings keep winning hockey games.
They defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-0 on Friday night at Little Caesars Arena as Jonathan Bernier and Jimmy Howard combined for the shutout.
It was Detroit’s fourth win in a row and sixth in its last seven games. With 70 points (30-38-10) and four games remaining, the Red Wings have the league’s fourth-worst record ahead of the New Jersey (67), the Los Angeles Kings (65) and the Ottawa Senators (60), whose pick is owned by the Colorado Avalanche.
The team finishing last overall has an 18.5 percent of getting the No. 1 pick and selecting Hughes in June’s NHL draft. The second-worst team has a 13.5 percent chance, the third-worst 11.5 percent and the fourth-worst – Detroit’s current slot – a 9.5 percent shot.
The draft lottery is on April 9, the eve of the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But the team clearly has no thoughts about that these days.
“I think everyone right now is just buying in and we’re competing hard, playing the right way,” said Tyler Bertuzzi, who had a goal and two assists. “Playing simple and sometimes, simple hockey wins.”
Bernier made 21`saves in the first two periods on Friday before leaving with an upper-body injury. Howard stopped seven shots in the third period.
Coach Jeff Blashill said he does not know if Bernier can dress to back up Howard on Sunday night (7:30) when the Wings host the Boston Bruins.
Dylan Larkin and Danny DeKeyser added a goal and an assist each. Andreas Athanasiou also scored to join Larkin in the 30-goal club this season.
“I think we’re playing hard,” Larkin said. “We’re not giving up on the season, even though it seems like . . . I guess you could look at it as meaningless hockey and meaningless games here down the stretch.”
Larkin and Athanasiou are the first Red Wings with 30 goals since 2008-09, when Marian Hosse (40), Johan Franzen (34), Pavel Datsyuk (32) and Henrik Zetterberg (31) all accomplished the feat.
“That’s unreal,” Bertuzzi said. “(Larkin) got it yesterday” – he reached 30 goals by scoring twice in a 5-4 OT win in Buffalo Thursday night. “That was huge for him. We were talking to (Athanasiou). We knew he was gonna get it at some point. It was good to see him get it tonight. I’m happy for him.”
Athanasiou moved to center in late February and has been effective as a No. 2 center behind Larkin.
Bertuzzi, who has 19 goals, has three goals and four assists in the last three games while Larkin has four goals and two assists in the past four. Their linemate, Anthony Mantha, had an assist on Friday to give him two goals and five assists in the last four games. Mantha also has 19 goals.
“To see Anthony and Tyler right at the doorstep for 20, it’s gotta be exciting for fans and for management and for myself,” Larkin said. “Knowing that there’s players here and my buddies are having good seasons. Hopefully, we just continue to gain confidence and take the next steps in our careers.”
DeKeyser gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first period. He tipped in Larkin’s pass for DeKeyser’s fifth goal.
Larkin scored 2:12 into the second period when he picked up a loose puck that had bounced off Bertuzzi’s skate in the slot and whipped it past Blackwood for his 31st goal.
Bertuzzi added an empty-net goal with 2:35 left.
Athanasiou scored with 1:27 left.
Defenseman Jake Chelios, the son of Hockey Hall of Famer member and former Red Wing Chris Chelios, made his NHL debut.
He was an emergency call up on Friday morning due to Jonathan Ericsson’s upper-body injury, which he suffered in Thursday night’s 5-4 overtime win in Buffalo.
Chelios was plus-1, with a shot, two hits and a blocked shot in 17:11.
…Taro Hirose was held without an assist for the first time in the NHL. The 22-year-old left wing had an assist in each of his first five games. It is the third longest assist streak to begin a career in NHL history. Sergei Makarov had a seven-game streak in 1989-90 with the Calgary Flames while Wayne Gretzky (1979-80) and Sidney Crosby (2005-06) began their careers with six-game assist streaks.
... It was Red Wing head athletic trainer Piet Van Zant’s 2,000th professional game.
… Devils defenseman and captain Andy Greene is from Trenton.