Ineffective PK underscores larger problem for Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scores past Jimmy Howard during the third period Saturday.

Philadelphia — The penalty kill was one area the Red Wings dominated earlier this season.

That's not the case anymore.

Saturday the Red Wings allowed three power-play goals (on four attempts) to Philadelphia as the Flyers dominated in a 7-2 victory.

That's nine consecutive games the Red Wings have allowed at least one power-play goal — the penalty kill becoming a weakness rather than a strength.

"Obviously our penalty kill was our greatest strength at one time this year and right now, (and) today we were paralyzed," coach Mike Babcock said. "We tried to take some seams away, and others just stood there and were just not aggressive."

The lack of aggressiveness, and possibly over-thinking, was also mentioned by several other players, as the Flyers picked apart the Red Wings on the penalty kill – but also stopping the Red Wings on two of three power plays.

"We've been really good in special teams but we're having a tough stretch here," Henrik Zetterberg said. "When that happens it's easy to over-think."

Confidence is eroding right now around the Red Wings as losses mount (four of five games), and the lack of confidence on the penalty kill is beginning to become apparent.

"We weren't very aggressive. When we were confident our penalty kill was dominant for us, absolutely dominant," Babcock said. "We've come off it and now we are on our heels and we are not assertive.

"We're standing there watch them shoot it in our net instead of going after them like we were. We have to get our confidence back and get aggressive."

Howard not at fault

Jimmy Howard's first career start in Philadelphia didn't turn out well.

Howard allowed seven goals on 36 shots but was hardly to blame in this loss.

"As far as our goaltender our goaltender had nothing to do with it. We gave him four goals that were basically freebies," Babcock said.

Howard will sit Sunday in Pittsburgh, Petr Mrazek getting the start.

But that was planned with the back-to-back games.

"Mrazek gets the chance (Sunday), and today had nothing to do with it," Babcock said. "It had nothing to do with Howie. It was our problem."

What happened?

Since returning from a 4-1-1 road trip which included victories over league leaders such as Nashville and Chicago, the Red Wings are 2-4 and haven't played well at all.

"It's almost like we're hiding out there. We're a little afraid," Zetterberg said. "We don't want the puck. If we have it, we'd rather give it to someone else.

"Then all of a sudden we start playing. We know that we can play, but somehow we want to wait 20 minutes before we get going. Where we are right now we can't do that."

Babcock sees a lack of confidence creeping into the locker room.

"It doesn't look like we have very much confidence right now and our confidence comes from an earned basis," Babcock said. "You can't give it to anyone. You have to earn it by doing good things.

"We've got to earn our confidence back; no one is giving it to you. You think we are going to Pittsburgh and they're taking the day off (Sunday), it doesn't work like that. You jump on teams when you're down that's what you do, that's what we try to do."

Big Save

The key save in the game was Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason making a glove save on Tomas Tatar with the Flyers leading 2-1 in the second period — but with the Red Wings gaining momentum.

The stop came just after the Red Wings had failed on a power play.

"Those are big saves that can defintely change the momentum of games," Mason said. "If you don't make that save, it becomes a 2-2 game. Who knows if we get the power play after that?

"It was a timely save that goaltenders need to make. More importantly, we took advantage of the power play right after that. If we don't take advantage of the power play, then the whole game changes."

Ice chips

Stephen Weiss returned to the lineup, replacing Tomas Jurco (upper body). Weiss had been a healthy scratch the last two games.

Niklas Kronwall left the game briefly in the second period after getting his head slammed into the glass behind the net by Vincent Lecavalier.

But Kronwall returned to begin the third period.

"Just a stinger," Kronwall said. "You get them every once in a while."

Red Wings at Penguins

Faceoff: 12:30 p.m. Sunday/Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh.

TV/radio: NBC/97.1.

Outlook: The teams have split two games this season, the Red Wings winning in overime…Penguins could be without C Sidney Crosby and C Evgeni Malkin, Crosby didn't play Saturday in Boston, and Malkin left the game.