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Red Wings explain the 41st loss of their season, 4-1 to the Devils. Filmed Feb. 13, 2020 in Newark, N.J.

Detroit Free Press

NEWARK, N.J. — It wasn’t a performance that would impress any boss, much less one as exacting as Steve Yzerman.

By their own admission the Detroit Red Wings quit playing Thursday at Prudential Center and got what they deserved, a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Yzerman, who recently was overseas scouting, watched from the press box as the Wings played subpar even for a group that sits 31st in the NHL at 14-41-4. Their 32 points are 13 worse than any other team.

There wasn’t much for those in the locker room to do but concede what a letdown it was.

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“They came out in the third and we didn’t, that’s really what it comes down to,” Dylan Larkin said. “We can’t just take our foot off the gas and that’s what we did.

“No one wants to be in this position. I’ve felt the past two weeks we’ve been building and we’ve been building our game and playing as a unit of five out there and our goaltending has been great. Then tonight we took a step backwards In the league that is so tight, so competitive, you have to come every night. Especially us, we have to come harder.”

Justin Abdelkader, who has not scored a goal in 42 games, pointed to a lack of execution, saying “it made us slow and looking like we were chasing them. It kind of snowballed.”

That’s a word the Wings have used ad nauseam this season, because of how many times they’ve been scored on in spurts. The Devils did it four times in four minutes in the first half of the third period. 

“We stopped skating, totally,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought the game was loose in the first, but we had jump, at least. The second was all special teams for the most part. In the third, we just stopped skating. We stopped playing.

“We deserve what we got.”

The Wings’ only goal came in the second period when Andreas Athanasiou finished a pass from Anthony Mantha.

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It’s only a matter of time before the Wings are mathematically eliminated from the 2020 playoffs, but they did manage to win two times in a three-game span earlier this month, including against the Boston Bruins, who they play again Saturday. They lost Tuesday at Buffalo, but they didn’t quit. It has been a point of emphasis to work hard regardless of the record.

“I’ve said it lots – to get better as a group and get better individually, you have to take steps forward with as few steps backward as you can,” Blashill said. “I think we’ve taken a good number of steps forward. Tonight we took steps backward.

“How do you handle it? You come out against Boston Saturday and you make sure you take steps in the right direction.” 

The Wings lost 5-1 at New Jersey in November, and play them again at home Feb. 25.

“We owe these guys big time for the past two performances we’ve put against them,” Larkin said.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter.