Detroit — The Red Wings let this game get away, plain and simple.
They held two two-goal leads in the third period but eventually lost 5-4 to Florida in a shootout.
Florida’s Brad Boyes scored shorthanded at 16:14 of the third period, tying the game 4-4.
In the shootout, Florida’s Nick Bjugstad was the lone player to score from either team, as the Red Wings (23-18-11, 57 points) ended a five-game home stand 3-1-1.
Good, for sure, but the home record easily could have been better considering the Red Wings were in control of this game midway in the third period.
“We didn’t keep the puck out of our net,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We stopped the shooting the puck a little bit in the third and tried to be a little cute. The positive thing is we had young guys who were real, real good today.
“When you’re up 3-1, should you win? Absolutely. When you’re up 4-2, should you won? Absolutely. We didn’t.”
Tomas Tatar put the Red Wings ahead 4-2 at 13:33 of the third period. His goal seemingly put the game away.
But Drew Shore cut the lead to 4-3 for the Panthers at 14:28, and Boyes’ short-handed goal capped the Florida comeback.
“The shootout is 50-50, you never know,” said Tatar, who had a goal and assist. “We had the lead so we can’t let that happen at the end of the game. We’re experienced enough in this locker room to not let that happen.”
The Red Wings were without Henrik Zetterberg (back), who was a late scratch.
Babcock said Zetterberg has had lingering issues with his back, stemming from the 11 games he missed in December with back issues.
Babcock said the team would know more about Zetterberg’s status Monday.
They did get Johan Franzen back in the lineup, with Franzen earning an assist in his return, playing 16 minutes, 45 seconds, and taking Zetterberg’s place at center on the top line.
Gustav Nyquist, Daniel Alfredsson and Riley Sheahan (power play) scored second-period goals, eliminating a 1-0 Panthers lead.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson stopped 33 shots but saw his five-game win streak come to an end.
“When you score four goals, you should win the game,” Gustavsson said. “You have to find a way to win the game, and tonight we didn’t.
“For myself, I have to try to find a way to stop one more puck.”
Florida’s Jesse Winchester cut the lead to 3-2 in the third period but Tatar scored at 13:33, his 12th goal, on assists from Sheahan — who found Tatar alone at the side of the net — and Tomas Jurco, the Red Wings’ youth line again producing offense.
The line accounted for five points.
“They’re pushing real hard,” Babcock said. “That line was real good.”
But Shore cut the Red Wings lead to one again, 4-3, at 14:28, igniting the final Panthers comeback.
Nyquist, who has goals in four consecutive games, started the second-period outburst.
After the Panthers turned the puck over deep in their zone, Nyquist snapped a quick shot past goalie Tim Thomas (Davison) at 8:12, his ninth goal.
Alfredsson made it 2-1 at 9:31 thanks to the lively Joe Louis Arena end boards.
Brendan Smith’s shot from the point bounced off the boards and back to Alfredsson near the goal post. Alfredsson swatted the rebound before Thomas could react for his 12th goal.
Sheahan capped the rally with a power-play goal at 18:15.
Sheahan made a nice move in front, sliding the puck past Thomas for his third goal and giving the Red Wings a 3-1 lead.
Babcock was pleased with getting seven out of a possible 10 points on the home stand.
“If you would have told me we would do that, I would have said ‘great,’” Babcock said. “I liked a lot of the things we did as a team. Our group is making progress and our I like our competition level and work ethic.”