Red Wings crash back down to earth with 5-1 loss against Panthers

Detroit News

Sunrise, Fla. − The fun times on this Red Wings road trip came to a crashing halt in south Florida.

This wasn’t enjoyable for the Wings, at all. Like storms on a beach day.

After two impressive victories, the Florida Panthers crashed the Wings back down to earth with a 5-1 victory.

The Panthers scored late in the first period, and continued the deluge in the second period, as goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and the Wings’ defense could do nothing to slow Florida down.

“We didn’t give ourselves much of a chance,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “Turnovers, lost battles, lost battles at the blue line. We had poor gaps, we retreated. Really disappointing and a really easy night for Florida. It’ll be interesting to see how our guys respond from this.”

The Panthers (13-10-4) outshot the Wings (13-8-5) 41-20 as the Wings moved to 2-1-0 on this road trip, which ends Saturday in Dallas (2 p.m./BSD/97.1).

Jonatan Berggren (power play) had the lone Wings goal, while Nedeljkovic stopped 36 shots giving Ville Husso a rare night off.

BOX SCORE: Panthers 5, Red Wings 1

But for Nedeljkovic, who has struggled most of this season, it was another evening of frustration and inability to find a rhythm.

“I felt good, a lot of shots (faced) early,” Nedeljkovic said. “I don’t know. I felt good. One (goal) goes in, followed by another, by another. It’s been tough.”

Lalonde wanted to see the video before fully evaluating. But Lalonde, at first blush, wasn’t impressed with the Wings’ play in front of Nedeljkovic.

“Play better in front of him,” Lalonde said. “We didn’t give him any chance at all. If we play our game, play the way we’re capable of, we give ourselves a chance. We didn’t.”

Chris Tierney, Eetu Luostarinen, Josh Mahura, Matt Kiersted, Matthew Tkachuk scored the Panthers’ goals and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 19 saves.

Berggren, who continues to be a revelation since being recalled from Grand Rapids, scored his fourth goal (and ninth point) in 13 games, cutting the Panthers’ lead to 3-1 in the second period.

Bobrovsky stopped Andrew Copp’s shot from the dot, but the puck trickled to the side where Berggren pounced on it and backhanded the puck past Bobrovsky at 8:08.

The goal gave the Wings some energy, but they couldn’t muster any more immediate offense, though David Perron did hit a post the next shift. But, then, Florida quickly struck with two goals.

“We did (get a spark), and (Florida’s goals) kind of killed us,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “We didn’t have an answer. We didn’t have an answer all night. There was good hope there with Bergy scoring, but giving up two right after was tough.”

More:Oskar Sundqvist giving Red Wings a needed boost on offense

Kiersted scored his first goal, at 14:52, that pushed Florida’s lead to 4-1.

Nick Cousins cut through the zone and snapped a shot that Nedeljkovic appeared to get his glove on, but the puck dropped and Kiersted was there to knock the puck past Nedeljkovic.

Just 45 seconds later, Tkachuck made it 5-1 Panthers with one of the flashier goals of the season.

Tkachuk came racing down wing, faked a shot and a backhand move, and whistled his 13th goal past a frozen Nedeljkovic at 15:37.

The Panthers scored goals late in the first and early in the second periods, to begin taking control of the game.

The Panthers outshot the Wings 15-5 in the first period, who did kill two Florida power plays in the period. The Wings appeared to be in good shape to escape any damage despite the tilted ice, but Tierney opened the scoring with his first goal in only his second game with the Panthers, late in the period.

“It was one of those nights,” Larkin said. “Not a bad start, we just really lacked any grit in their zone all night, we didn’t sustain pressure, we didn’t win battles.”

Nedeljkovic was making only his fifth appearance since November 6, but looked sharp against the Panthers barrage in the opening 20 minutes.

But the Tierney goal got the Panthers rolling, and the Wings unhinged.

Luostarinen pushed Florida’s lead to 2-0 just 1:47 into the second period.

Aleksander Barkov, the Panthers’ star who returned to the ice after five games with an illness, snapped a shot cutting through the slot. Luostarinen got his stick on the puck, deflecting it past a frustrated Nedeljkovic.

“That’s part of the game and those are going to go in, it happens,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s the ones that beat me clean that I have to clean up.”

The frustration only grew as Florida made it 3-0 only 58 seconds later on Mahura’s third goal.

Mahura went to the net hard and put back a rebound of Sam Bennett’s shot past Nedeljkovic.

The Wings were without defensemen Olli Maatta and Jake Walman, who were replaced by Robert Hagg and Gustav Lindstrom. Maatta was out with an illness (day to day), while Walman was a healthy scratch.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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