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Detroit Red Wings, Magnus Hellberg flounder in third period of 4-1 loss to N.Y. Islanders

ELMONT, N.Y. — A patched-up Detroit Red Wings group took shape in the team's first game after the NHL trade deadline.

Their hopes of claiming a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference endured another setback with Saturday's 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders at UBS Arena, putting five games between the Wings and their last victory. They maintain, as captain Dylan Larkin put it, an attitude of "We're still right there," and beyond that, these games carry significance for the players who have jobs on the line.

For Magnus Hellberg, for example, the outing was a chance to show if he belongs in the team's future. With Ville Husso nursing a lower-body injury — he could be available as soon as Sunday, when the Wings visit the Philadelphia Flyers — Hellberg got the start, with Alex Nedeljkovic backing up. (There was a amusing moment after the game when it was pointed out to Hellberg he was wearing a hoodie with No. 39 on it — he's No. 45 — and he realized it was Nedeljkovic's, which is why it looked so small on the 6-foot-6 Hellberg.)

"My contract is up this year," Hellberg said. "This is where I want to stay, so every game I get is showcase to get a new contract. So even though, whether playoffs is in reach or not, every chance you get to play, you want to play your best hockey. That’s what I’m going to try to keep doing every game I get.

Red Wings goaltender Magnus Hellberg reacts after Islanders left wing Anders Lee scored a goal past him during the third period of the Wings' 4-1 loss to the Islanders on Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Elmont, New York.
Red Wings goaltender Magnus Hellberg reacts after Islanders left wing Anders Lee scored a goal past him during the third period of the Wings' 4-1 loss to the Islanders on Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Elmont, New York.

"I thought we had a good feeling coming into the third period. We had the lead, 1-0. We were really happy with that in this building, we know they are a good defensive team and they have some good offense, too."

Hellberg impressed through two periods, and made 32 saves total. Coach Derek Lalonde callled Hellberg's perfomance "fine. Four goals, it’s not a recipe for success. He was fine. It’s tough to talk about goaltending — he gives us zero goals against for 40 minutes, we scored one goal."

Dylan Larkin scored his 23rd goal of the season late in the second period. Magnus Hellberg had made 27 saves when Zach Parise scored early in the third period, connecting on Sebastian Aho's rebound. Anders Lee followed up with a goal less than thee minutes later, and Noah Dobson converted on a power play with 4:19 to play and Lee scored again with 2:38 to play to make it four unanswered goals for the Islanders.

Adam Erne and Alex Chiasson of the Detroit Red Wings skates against Noah Dobson of the New York Islanders during the first period at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Adam Erne and Alex Chiasson of the Detroit Red Wings skates against Noah Dobson of the New York Islanders during the first period at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, on Saturday, March 4, 2023.

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Hell(berg) of a start

Hellberg denied the Islanders on 18 attempts just in the first period. The Wings didn't play well defensively and struggled to establish an attack when they gained New York's zone, registering just six shots on Ilya Sorokin over the first 20 minutes. Filip Zadina had one of the better chances, firing a wrist shot from the left circle that Sorokin gloved. Hellberg "made some big saves in the first couple periods and in the third, we sat back too much and they came in waves and when you do, teams get going," Larkin said. "We just didn’t play good enough for him in the third, and on our toes enough."

Magnus Hellberg of the Detroit Red Wings makes the second-period save against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Magnus Hellberg of the Detroit Red Wings makes the second-period save against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, on Saturday, March 4, 2023.

Patched lineup

With Tyler Bertuzzi traded to the Boston Bruins, Oskar Sundqvist sent to the Minnesota Wild and Jakub Vrana dealt to the St. Louis Blues, the Wings were down to 11 forwards. That led to signing Alex Chiasson, a 32-year-old winger who had more than 600 NHL games, spanning 10 seasons, on his résumé. He was signed Friday to a $750,000 pro-rated contract through the end of the season and debuted Saturday on a line with Pius Suter and Adam Erne, in the spot where Sundqvist used to play. Chiasson also played the net-front role on the second power play unit. "He's hard to play against," Larkin said of Chiasson. "He plays the game the right way. He's a veteran, so he brings a lot of experience to our lineup."

Man advantage

The Wings had blown through two power plays, and had more than half a minute with an extra skater on a delayed call late in the second period. Defenseman Filip Hronek (traded to the Vancouver Canucks), Bertuzzi and Sundqvist were all power play regulars, but the moves led to adjustments; one was having Jordan Oesterle run the second unit. The first unit came through with a goal late in the second period, when Larkin took a pass down low from Moritz Seider and lifted the puck into the net.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings lose fifth straight, 4-1, to New York Islanders