Detroit – The Red Wings’ chances of extending their playoff streak to 25 seasons took a big punch to the gut Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in a 7-2 loss to the Penguins.
And really, for the final 40 minutes, it wasn’t even that close.
The fans began leaving midway through the third period as the Red Wings lost their second in three games, allowing 13 goals in those two losses.
Considering how important these games are now, the urgency seemed lacking.
“It wasn’t nearly what it needs to be,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Tonight was embarrassing. We have to do a lot better than that. We have to be better, it’s pretty simple.”
Coach Jeff Blashill lit into his team during a third period timeout after the Penguins had taken a 6-2 lead with about 12 minutes left to play.
What was the message?
“We have to play good hockey,” said Blashill, and that’s something the Red Wings didn’t do much of after the first period.
Pittsburgh scored four second-period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit, and cruising to the rout.
For the third consecutive game the Red Wings, once momentum turned against them, didn’t do a good job to get it back.
“We let momentum totally get away from us,” Blashill said. “We weren’t resilient enough. Once we got scored on, we have to be better than that.”
The seven goals were the most the Red Wings have allowed this season, while also the most Pittsburgh has scored this season.
Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Green (power play) scored for the Red Wings (37-27-11, 85 points), who continue to trail Philadelphia in the wild-card chase and Boston for third place and an automatic playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Wings have seven games remaining.
“There’s been a lot of talk,” Kronwall said. “It’s enough with the talk; we have to do something about it.”
Petr Mrazek started but was pulled in favor of Jimmy Howard after Phil Kessel scored at 15:10 of the second period, giving the Penguins a 4-1 lead.
Mrazek stopped 23 of 27 shots but was pulled for the second time this season against the Penguins, and the third time in his career against Pittsburgh.
“Petr has to be better than that,” Blashill said.
Said Mrazek: “They’re good offensive team, they can shoot the puck, they can score.”
Nick Bonino and Kessel each had a goal and four assists, Carl Hagelin (Michigan) had two goals, and Chris Kunitz, Eric Fehr and Kris Letang added Penguins goals.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury only needed to stop 21 shots as the Penguins outshot the Red Wings 41-23.
“They’re a good team when they get the space,” Kronwall said. “For whatever reason we gave them way too much space. They’re a talented team with good players and we gave them way too much room out there.”
The Red Wings took a 1-0 lead into the second period on Athanasiou’s seventh goal.
Brad Richards found Athanasiou behind the Penguins defense off a turnover and Athanasiou finished off the breakaway at 8:24 of the first period.
But the game began to crumble for the Red Wings just 20 seconds into the second period.
Kunitz (Ferris State) banked a shot off of Mrazek’s back leg and into the net during the opening shift, tying the game.
From there, it was all downhill for a Red Wings team that couldn’t defend or keep the puck out of its net.
“It’s a loss, it was frustrating, it was embarrassing,” Blashill said. “But it’s a loss, that’s it. We have to win a game on Monday (when the Red Wings host Buffalo) and that’s what our focus is.”