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Wings slump continues with loss to Lightning

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — This rough patch the Red Wings have hit isn't going away.

For the second consecutive night the Red Wings didn't play all that badly — but it didn't matter. They lost Friday 3-1 to Tampa Bay, losing for the sixth time in the last eight games.

With all the losing, they've let Boston and Ottawa creep closer to them (Boston within four points, Ottawa six) while Montreal and Tampa Bay are 10 and eight points, respectively, ahead of the Red Wings, who have 87 points.

The consolation in the Red Wings locker room after Friday's loss: they're playing better hockey than they did earlier in this losing streak.

"We're not hunting, there are teams behind us," captain Henrik Zetterberg said of the playoff chase. "We're still ahead. I was more concerned before the Pittsburgh game (Sunday's victory after some ugly losses). In my mind the way we've played the last three games, we've been doing a lot of good things.

"Obviously you want the point. But if we can keep doing this, playing like that, we'll be fine."

Tampa broke a 1-1 tie with Alex Killorn's goal at 10 minutes, 31 seconds of the third period.

Jonathan Drouin deftly carried the puck into the zone. Drouin found Victor Hedman on the wing, who managed to corral the puck and feed Killorn coming through the middle.

Killorn snapped a shot from between the hashmarks that beat goalie Jimmy Howard glove side, Killorn's 15th goal.

The Red Wings had a power-play opportunity shortly after when the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice at 11:23.

But the power play couldn't get the tying goal.

"That's when you really need it, at the end of games when you have an opportunity," Zetterberg said.

A Steven Stamkos empty-net goal, his 40th goal, with 28 seconds remaining clinched the game.

"I was impressed with the way we competed, with a lot of our players, now let's just build off it," coach Mike Babcock said. "We played good, we started good.

"When you're on a winning streak, you win some games you probably shouldn't and when you're crawling out of these things, there's probably a couple more you lose than you should. But as long as you keep doing good things, good things will happen to you."

Tomas Tatar (power play) and Tampa Bay's Anton Stralman traded second-period goals.

Stralman opened the game's scoring early in the period.

Hedman took a shot from the point that Howard stopped but the rebound went directly to Stralman pinching from the point.

Stralman snapped the rebound past Howard, his seventh goal, at 1:22, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

Howard made 29 saves, many of them fine ones, in his first start since losing 7-2 Saturday in Philadelphia.

"Their goaltender (Ben Bishop) was good but our goaltender was great," Babcock said. "That's a positive for us. We need him to be great every night and that's a good step."

The goal appeared to energize the Lightning, who carried the play for the next several minutes.

Howard kept the Red Wings in the game, though, his best save being stopping Ondrej Palat's redirect attempt.

The Red Wings got back into the game thanks to a tripping penalty on Hedman against Erik Cole, who was streaking toward a breakway attempt.

On the resulting power play, the Red Wings converted thanks to a bit of generosity from the Lightning.

Bishop attempted to cover a puck during a scramble in front of the Lightning net, after a shot on net, but never could establish control.

The puck squirted behind Bishop in the crease, and a pair of Lightning players attempted to slide the puck under Bishop, but not before Tatar slipped a stick to nudge the puck into the net.

The goal was Tatar's 26th, coming at 6:57 of the second period.

It ended an eight-game drought without a goal for Tatar, and was the second in his last 14 games.

"It was nice, I just saw the puck and I threw my whole body into there," Tatar said. "I was real happy when I saw the puck go in. It was like a release."

Ultimately, though, it ended up yet another frustrating loss for the Red Wings, who've had a good many of them since the month of March began.

"We just have to battle for each other and try to win some games, get some confidence," Tatar said.