There were the goal posts, and the open net, and ultimately, a familiar feeling.
The Detroit Red Wings continue their stretch of hosting western Canadian teams Thursday when the Calgary Flames come to town, eager to see better results than against the Edmonton Oilers. The final from Little Caesars Arena Tuesday read 5-2 in favor of the Oilers, but the Wings were much more competitive than the score.
“We’re at 3-2 there and they get a power play goal,” Dylan Larkin said. “We did so good on the PK all night and that’s what good power plays do — they score at the right time. We didn’t have the same response, but I’m proud of the way we battled and stuck together. We stood up for ourselves.
“Maybe a little bit we got caught up in the emotion too much and got off our game in the third period when we needed a goal, but that’s just a learning experience. We have to remember we have to play hockey there and get the goal we needed.”
It’s getting late in the season to still learn these lessons: The Wings are 21-20-8 and have five teams ahead of them in the race to just get to a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to finish,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “I know it sounds simple, but we’re not natural finishers, goal scorers. We don’t have a ton of 30-40-50 goal scorers on our team. We don’t actually have any of them, really. It’s kind of got to be by a group. We just have to cash in on some of those chances. We had those looks, unfortunately it just didn’t go in.
“The inability to finish with some of our looks was a little bit frustrating.”
The Wings have 30-goal scorers in Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi (and a guy in the minors, Jakub Vrana, whose history projects him to be a potential 30-to-40 goal scorer) but injuries have limited Bertuzzi to 18 games this season. He did look like his old self on the goal he scored against the Oilers, driving to the net, but it was only his second of the season and first since Nov. 19.
The frustration for the Wings is that they could have a multi-goal lead coming out of the first period — Robby Fabbri missed an open net, and Moritz Seider and Jonatan Berggren hit goal posts. Then they fall behind 3-1, but Joe Veleno, on a setup by Moritz Seider that happened right after a great penalty killing shift by Pius Suter, scores with seconds to play in the second period.
“That was a huge turning point,” Larkin said. “We were feeling good going into the third. Mo made a great place, Suits made a great play on (Connor) McDavid and it was there. We felt really good.”
Even in the third, when it was 3-2 and then 4-2, Dominik Kubalik had a great look on a power play. But when the Wings pulled Ville Husso on top of being on a power play with a couple minutes to go, giving them a 6-on-4 skater advantage, it was the Oilers who took advantage.
“We could have had more,” Larkin said. “There were chances to be had. But you know what, we left a lot out there.
“That’s an extremely difficult test coming out of a nine-day break. We played with emotion, the crowd was into it. We responded. We were right there, but just not enough. It is frustrating that we can’t find traction, but there is still a little bit of time for us.”
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 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.