Red Wings end season series with Florida in 3-2 OT loss

Detroit News

The Red Wings have seen enough of the Florida Panthers this season.

The Panthers completed the season series against the Wings with a 3-2 overtime victory Thursday on Alex Wennberg’s goal at 1:26 of the extra session.

Wennberg wheeled around the net and beat goaltender Thomas Greiss from in front, and kept the Panthers in the race for the lead in the Central Division.

The Wings (12-21-5) ended the season series 2-5-1 against Florida (24-9-4), while also losing their seventh consecutive road game.

But after a poor performance Tuesday, the Wings played a stronger game all the way around, especially on the defensive end.

“We had a couple massive breakdowns in the first (period), but other than that, we played pretty good defensively,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We were above them way better, especially in the neutral zone. We played better overall.”

The disappointing aspect of it all for the Wings was, and is, the fact some of these better efforts have come after ugly losses.

“I wish it didn’t have to be after a bad effort that we would come back and play well,” forward Luke Glendening said. “We’ve spoken about it before, but I don’t want to be talking about moral victories. We still lost the game, and that part isn’t what we want.

“But we worked hard and did more things right.”

Anthony Mantha broke a tie early in the third period Thursday, but Florida’s Frank Vatrano tied it just two minutes later with a one-timer on the power play, making it a 2-2 game.

Greiss stopped 33 shots in one of his best games of the season.

“Greiser played good,” Blashill said. “He came in the last game and played good and followed that up with a good game.”

Mantha’s goal was his 10th, and his eighth point in 10 games, and gave the Wings a brief lead.

Michael Rasmussen made a fine play along the boards, controlling the puck among three Panthers. Rasmussen fed Mantha ahead, and after Mantha gathered the puck with the help of his skate, snapped a shot over goalie Chris Driedger.

Big young forwards Rasmussen, Adam Erne and Givani Smith all had starring moments in this game.

“They’re using their big bodies and that’s huge for this team,” Glendening said. “It’s huge for us right now and huge for the Detroit Red Wings as a whole moving forward. It’s great to see these guys contributing the way they are. It’s exciting for the future.”

But the Panthers came right back with Vatrano’s 11th goal.

Wings defenseman Jon Merrill’s delay of game penalty (shooting the puck over the glass) came just after Merrill got out of the box for slashing, and put the Wings on the penalty kill again.

Just six seconds after Merrill’s penalty, Carter Verhaeghe (two assists) found Vatrano near the dot and Vatrano blasted a shot past Greiss.

“You don’t want to take two penalties in a row, it’s hard to kill penalties and especially when they get two in a row and start working different stuff,” Blashill said. “That was unfortunate. Our player doesn’t want to put it over the glass, he did on accident, and it’s tough for sure.”

Erne and Florida’s Noel Acciari traded first period goals.

Erne put the Wings on the board first with career-high seventh goal.

Troy Stecher delivered a perfect slap-pass that Erne, in the slot, redirected past goalie Chris Driedger giving the Wings a 1-0 lead at 4:22.

The Panthers rallied, though, with Acciari tying the game.

But it was Verhaeghe who made the play. Verhaeghe received a pass in the high slot, skated through the slot and drew Greiss to the post, then centered a pass in the crease where Acciari poked in his fourth goal at 11:55.

Smith, inserted into the lineup Tuesday, brought a spark to the lineup. Smith was busy with two fights, including challenging Riley Stillman early in the third period after Stillman knocked down Dylan Larkin in the second period.

“It’s a testament to who Smitty is, to step in there after he’s already fought, to step in after a high hit on Larks and stand up for your teammate,” Glendening said. “It’s a testament to who Smitty is and it’s great for this team.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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