Helene St. James | Detroit Free Press
Just as the Detroit Red Wings at least could take some encouragement from the way they were playing — albeit without the results they wanted — they regressed spectacularly.
Their Friday match at Little Caesars Arena against the Florida Panthers was a low point in a challenging season. They were routed by the Panthers in the first period en route to a 7-2 loss, dropping to 4-12-3.
The seven goals matches the season high allowed Jan. 28 at Dallas.
“It’s not acceptable,” alternate captain Frans Nielsen said. “I thought we had started to figure out what it takes to win, what we need to do to have success. It for sure wasn’t Xs and Os out there in the first period – we were losing one-on-one battles all over the ice and made it easy on them. After that first game in Tampa, that was the only thing we talked about, and that’s what made us play well on that road trip – we were winning one-on-one battles and we were competing. For whatever reason we just didn’t show up.”
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The team found out immediately after the game that longtime masseur Sergei Tchekmarev had passed away. No further details were available.
It was an emotional end to a rough evening.
The good work that had marked the Wings’ performances since a Feb. 3 blowout loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning was absent. There was about a minute where it seemed they might recover at least a modicum of respect — when Bobby Ryan scored his fifth goal of the season, about 14 minutes into the first period — but the Wings handed the momentum right back. Goalie Thomas Greiss didn’t finish the game — it wasn’t all on him, by any means, but he didn’t make the needed saves, either.
Jonathan Bernier was OK, but it was over by the time he entered the game. Not that the Panthers let up; Aaron Ekblad scored in the last minute of the second period to make it 5-1.
The Wings had just squandered their third power play of the night when Valtteri Filppula fired a shot through traffic that deflected in to make it 5-2. The Panthers replied by scoring six seconds into their power play, with Patric Hornqvist netting his second of the game. Anthony Duclair scored at 8:56 to further the embarrassment on home ice.
The teams meet again Saturday at 5 p.m.
Ryan nets one
Ryan had the best start on the team with four goals in his first three games. He continued to generate chances, but he’d gone 14 games without a goal until Friday. Robby Fabbri skated the puck into the neutral zone and passed it to Ryan. He strode into Florida’s zone and ripped a shot that sank behind Chris Driedger. Ryan and Fabbri started the game on a line with Mathias Brome, as Anthony Mantha was reunited with Dylan Larkin on the top line, with Filip Zadina on the other wing.
Four in the first
The Panthers began their first-period rout with a goal at 6:09. Juho Lammikko connected on a pass from Brett Connolly in the slot and buried the puck. MacKenzie Weegar scored his first goal of the season at 7:58 when he finished a nice setup from Jonathan Huberdeau off the rush. Next, Keith Yandle had the puck in the left circle, and instead of shooting directly on net, he timed his shot to the right side perfectly, with Hornqvist sliding in for the redirect by the right post. Barkov piled on at 15:15, picking up Carter Verhaeghe’s rebound and destroying what little momentum had been created by Ryan’s goal.
Greiss pulled again
Greiss skated to the bench after the third goal, but it was only because the Wings called a timeout. He lasted until the end of the period, then was replaced by Bernier. It’s the second time Greiss hasn’t finished a game; he was pulled Feb. 3 at Tampa Bay after surrendering three goals in 5:36. Greiss didn’t have much of a chance on the Hornqvist goal, but didn’t look good on the others.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.