Detroit — The power play hasn’t been nearly the negative issue it’s been for the last several years for the Red Wings.
But in Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Buffalo, the inability to convert with the man-advantage at various junctures likely cost the Red Wings an opportunity for a victory.
No more frustrating instance was late in the third period, after the Wings had scored three goals to tie the game at 4, and suddenly thanks to Buffalo’s implosion, the Wings had a two-man advantage for 1 minute, 27 seconds.
“We need to shoot the puck a little more; we’re passing a little too much right now,” said Oskar Sundqvist, who had two third-period goals to ignite the Wings’ comeback. “Just shoot the puck, retrieve it, and break them down that way.”
The Wings had seven power plays in the game and never scored a goal. It extended the Wings’ current streak to 10 consecutive power plays without a goal, something that likely cost the Wings some points in the standings in the last two games.
“That’s frustrating; you need your power play to be successful,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “If we get the power-play (goal) either of these last two games, we’re probably looking at more than one point. The difference (Wednesday) is it got some looks.”
The recent slide has dropped the Wings to 19th overall (out of 32 teams) in power-play percentage, at 20.5%.
What saved the Wings against Buffalo, and fueled the third-period rally, was effective five-on-five play and impressive determination.
The Sabres appeared to have the game put away with the 4-1 third-period lead, and Buffalo goaltender Craig Anderson playing superbly.
But David Perron made it 4-2, then Sundqvist scored his two goals, and the Wings were at least salvage a point when it appeared none would be had.
“The effort, the five-on-five play, the compete from the guys was really impressive,” Lalonde said.
The Wings didn’t practice Thursday, so there was no update on forward Tyler Bertuzzi‘s injury.
But the way Bertuzzi was reacting, after apparently getting hit near his left hand Wednesday by a Ben Chiarot shot in the third period, the news might not be promising.
Bertuzzi slammed his stick into the boards in frustration as he skated off the ice, after getting hit, and immediately walked down the tunnel to the Wings’ dressing room.
Bertuzzi returned to the bench before the end of regulation time, but didn’t play.
“I wanted to use him in overtime and he couldn’t go,” Lalonde said.
This already has been a frustrating, injury-marred season for Bertuzzi, and at the most unfortunate of time. Bertuzzi can be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and was coming off a 30-goal season.
Bertuzzi missed much of the exhibition season with an undisclosed injury, then was hit on the right hand blocking a shot the second game of the season in New Jersey. Bertuzzi missed a month of playing time, and returned November 15 in Anaheim.
For the season, Bertuzzi has one goal and three assists in nine games.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic‘s return to the lineup Wednesday produced mixed results.
Both goals Nedeljkovic allowed in the first period looked stoppable, but Nedeljkovic kept battling and made some important saves as the game progressed to keep the Wings close, and able to rally.
Nedeljkovic is 2-3-2 this season with a 3.97 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. The plan was for Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso to alternate early this season, but Husso’s hot streak lately has earned him the majority of starts.
The Wings are hopeful Nedeljkovic took a step forward with Wednesday’s outing.
“He battled,” Lalonde said. “It’s a game that’s not going well for him, he doesn’t look himself, and to compete and battle the way he did, it’s good on him.”
The way Nedeljkovic was able to shake off the first-period goals, and compete, was a positive sign.
“There might be one or two that he wants back, but after that he responded really well and made some big saves,” forward Andrew Copp said. “I’m happy for him in that aspect because that’s hard. When things aren;t going each individual guy’s way, it’s kind of like us (Wednesday), it’s about how your respond.
“He responded very well, I thought.”