Krupa: Wings must forget Game 4, press on
Detroit — The Red Wings can be excused for feeling dejected.
After a lot of outstanding play Thursday, they made four mistakes in the closing minutes of a potentially pivotal playoff game. It ripped victory from their grasp.
A loss like that can stick with a team for a while.
But Wings coach Mike Babcock does not believe in momentum from game-to-game, playoffs or not. He says it starts all over again when the puck is dropped.
One reason is a good athlete's response to unhappiness with a result is to transform adversity into progress.
What was learned is that the same performance is required, absent the boo-boos.
Respond positively and improve. Elite athletes begin learning that from the moment they take up their sports.
And those intentions bloom only precariously from dejection.
With 5:26 to go in regulation, the Red Wings blew a two-goal lead in a game that would have put them up 3-1 in a series against a better opponent.
But the Wings also know they played a second good game in succession, arguably for the first time in seven weeks. Among other accomplishments, they committed only three giveaways.
Their twin tasks, now? Play a third worthy game in succession. And, as they did on Tuesday in the 3-0 shutout of the Lightning, eliminate the errors.
'Get on with it'
When Babcock stopped staring ominously at the Lightning's celebration behind the Red Wings net after the impressive Tyler Johnson netted his second goal in 7:51, the coach finally walked from behind the bench in Joe Louis Arena and decided to do something he almost never does.
He talked to his team.
Usually, because he says he is concerned about loose words uttered in the passion of the moment, he waits to speak with them. He is careful enough to want to command, with some precision, what he says.
But, this time, with perhaps a bit of damn-the-torpedoes boldness, Babcock said he talked to them about two things he believes.
"If you think you can, you can," he said, in the postgame press conference. "The second things is, I believe we stole Game 1 and they just stole this game. So, to me, it should be 2-2. And, here it is: It's the best-of-3. So, let's play.
"We can feel sorry for ourselves. We've got a flight to Tampa, let's do it then. Let's get up and regroup, and get on with it."
Getting on with it means recommitting to the fine play they exhibited for five periods and 14:35 of a sixth, before the mistakes occurred.
Getting on with it means correcting the mistakes.
Johnson's first goal occurred when the Wings lost possession of the puck in the offensive zone, and then had difficulty sorting out the coverage as they retreated into their own end with the Lightning's rush.
It left Darren Helm alone on the oncoming Johnson, without a defenseman behind him.
A second mistake occurred on the same goal when Petr Mrazek, who had a 115:06 scoreless streak going, finally blundered.
As the high-scoring Johnson skated mostly unabated, Mrazek went down early only halfway up in the crease.
Instead of up and out against an attacker from the outside, he was down and deep. Johnson beat him on the short side.
On the second goal, when Johnson primarily assisted the Ondrej Palat goal, the Wings lost a faceoff in the offensive zone and immediately blew the "split-and-pinch" assignments intended to begin the defense.
It spurred a Lightning rush and, once again, the Wings did not get their deployment sorted out in their own zone.
On the third goal, in overtime, the Wings turned the puck over in the offensive zone, near the blue line and at the sideboards.
Pressing offensively, only one man on the ice was in any good position to try to do something. A three-on-one break resulted in Johnson's second goal.
Four mistakes, after a lot of consistently good play.
The assertion that Luke Glendening's cut hand cost them the game is negated, in my mind, by the fact that his replacement against Johnson's line was Pavel Datsyuk.
Glendening is aggressive, young and gritty. But Datsyuk is Datsyuk, one of the finest defensive forwards in the game.
Babcock did not include Mrazek's positioning as an error, saying that what preceded it was the cause of the goal
"So when you think about it, for as well as we played, those are three crucial mistakes in a short period of time," he said.
"They're all on us. They're all our responsibility. It's not something they did. It's something we did. But that's just part of the game. It doesn't matter who gets hurt, you've got to play the whole 60 minutes."