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Red Wings' 'simple' game pays off with 4-0 win over Oilers

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Hockey

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The victory satisfied beyond the two points.

The Detroit Red Wings put on a performance worth remembering Sunday at Rogers Place, using a simple, patient game to emerge with a 4-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. There was spread-out scoring, solid goaltending, and an excellent team defensive effort as the Wings won for the third time in four games.

"I think it was one of the better games since I've been here," Frans Nielsen said. "It was 60 minutes, very few mistakes, we got pucks deep, we were good on the forecheck. It was a very solid, simple road game.

"Hopefully we learned something from tonight and we can see that when we don't make those mistakes in the neutral zone and turn pucks over, if we play a more simple game and try and outwork the opponents, we can be a really tough team to play against. We've got a lot of skill here, so once the opportunity comes, we can take advantage of that."

Nielsen got the scoring going when he reached out his stick three minutes into the game and ended up deflecting Nick Jensne's shot from the blue line. Nielsen, who was playing in his 700th career game, smiled when asked about it and said, "I didn't even know it went in. I guess you can call that lucky."

The Wings earned their luck, though; from the way Mrazek stifled a couple early Oilers chances to the way his teammates drove Connor McDavid and his crew wide to limit their time and space.

"That was the key," Anthony Mantha said after contributing a goal and an assist. "If they get to the middle, they will make great plays. We had to keep them to the outside. I mean, they could run around the outside of our zone for a minute and a half but if they don't get any scoring chances, the job is done for us."

Martin Frk also had a goal and an assist, and Gustav Nyqvist made it 2-0 before leaving with a knee injury that coach Jeff Blashill said he did not believe was serious.

Even with a shortened bench, the Wings kept grinding away.

"The 60-minute effort and competitive level was great," Blashill said. "It set a good tone for how we want to play -- how we want to get pucks in behind them, being good on the forecheck, trying to play as much o-zone as we can. That's the way we want to play hockey.

 

"It's something we've been continually working on. Our guys have done a good job of understanding that we have to keep getting better every day in how we need to play. I think our guys have bought into it, it's just a matter of executing it on a nightly basis."

Mrazek made 36 saves in his first start in more than two weeks; he said the key was to get a couple of quick saves, and then after that, "we did a great job, we cut the bottom off and we didn't do anything bad in the d-zone -- we just chip it out and regroup. We did a really good job in the defensive zone tonight."

Mrazek had played better than his numbers indicated coming into the game, and he deserved something to show for all the hard work he has put in as he seeks to distance himself from last season's mediocrity.

"He made some saves point-blank on Connor McDavid and we all know how good he is," Blashill said. "Petr has put tons of work in, both in the summer and in the moments when he hasn't been playing here in the last bit. He has improved his technique. He was totally ready for this opportunity so that's great for Pete."

The power play contributed, too; granted it was against a team with a home penalty kill that stood at 54.2 percent, but it was the way it scored that impressed -- Frk wound up his big shot and Mantha connected on the rebound.

"Marty is a dangerous player and at times we haven't had enough dangerous players out there," Blashill said. "That's how that power play is going to score -- it's going to be a hard shot that you can't control and somebody puts a rebound in."

(c)2017 Detroit Free Press

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