Tampa Bay — The Red Wings have been playing well, but Saturday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on the eve of the Olympic break will sting.
Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn scored at 16:50 of the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie, and Ondrej Palat added an empty-net goal (his second goal of the game), as the Lightning defeated the Red Wings 4-2.
It was the Red Wings' first regulation loss in five games (3-1-1).
Tampa Bay won its second game in the last six (2-4-0). Even with a shorthanded lineup — missing forwards Steven Stamkos (leg) and Valtteri Filppula (fractured ankle) — the Lightning found a way to win.
“We did a lot of good but I felt they (the Lightning) competed harder in front of the net at the end of the game,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We didn’t compete hard enough offensively and defensively (in front of the net).
“We were set up well to have a win and we didn’t. We weren’t determined at the end of the game.”
The NHL goes into its Olympic break beginning Sunday. The Red Wings resume their schedule Feb. 26 in Montreal.
The Red Wings are holding on to the final wild card spot by one point, but trail Montreal and Toronto by six points and Tampa Bay by seven in the Atlantic Division.
“We’re right in the mix,” Daniel Alfredsson said. “Hopefully we can be healthy. If we are, we feel we’re a pretty consistent team that’s going to give (ourselves) a chance to win.
“It’ll be a dogfight until the end. The break, hopefully, will help us going forward.”
Alfredsson and Tomas Jurco scored for the Red Wings.
Tom Pyatt had the other Lightning goal.
Killorn scored his 14th goal, snapping a loose puck off a scramble in front of goalie Jimmy Howard, to break the 2-2 tie.
What Babcock didn’t like was Killorn’s determination getting to the puck, compared to the Red Wings letting him get to the puck.
“The last two (goals allowed) of them, to me it’s win your battles, fellas,” Babcock said. “We didn’t do a good enough job. It’s not like those are big men pushing around. They got to the net and were determined.”
Jurco’s second-period goal at 11:19 gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead. The Lightning couldn’t clear the puck on the play and it wound up on Jurco’s stick near the hashmarks. Jurco backhanded a shot high that got past goalie Ben Bishop for his third goal of the season.
After a Red Wings power play went nowhere, the Lightning tied it at 2 on Pyatt’s first goal. Pyatt backhanded a shot that appeared to deflect off a pair of sticks and got past Howard at 17:14 of the second period.
“They get the bounce, it goes off mine and Abby’s (Justin Abdelkader) stick and goes in,” Jonathan Ericsson said. “They find a way to win. They’re a good team and they don’t need many chances to win a game.”
Alfredsson opened the Red Wings scoring with his 14th goal in the first period.
Pavel Datsyuk had the puck behind the net and found Alfredsson in the circle. Alfredsson snapped a quick one-timer that beat Bishop at 17:18.
The assist was Datsyuk’s 800th NHL point, while Alfredsson moved past Nicklas Lidstrom as the second-highest scoring Swedish player in the NHL (1,141 points). Mats Sundin leads with 1,349 points.
Tampa Bay tied it at 1 on Palat’s power-play goal, his 13th goal, at 1:44 of the second period.
When the NHL returns for business after an Olympic break in which 10 Red Wings and Babcock will participate, the team realizes it’s in for a rugged chase to the playoffs.
“We weren’t that comfortable last year, and we’ll have to pull something similar this year,” Zetterberg said. “But it’s fun. Your playoffs start when you come back after the break.”