Wings are optimistic about improvement for Game 3

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — Scoring a few goals, and stopping them, will be keys for the Red Wings when they resume their playoff series.

But heading into Tuesday's Game 3, the primary focus is to limit their defensive mistakes.

Whether it be losing coverage, bad decisions in the neutral zone, or on the forecheck, the inability to keep the Lightning in check proved to be the difference in Game 2.

In a negative way for the Red Wings, who lost 5-1.

"We made big mistakes," said coach Mike Babcock, reading off the ways the Red Wings failed. "The neutral zone, the forecheck, the sort-out in our defensive zone.

"We just have to have to go back to the drawing board."

The strange thing about the Red Wings' Game 2 loss is they felt they played significantly better than in Thursday's Game 1 victory.

The offensive push was better, in the Red Wings' minds, there was significantly more time spent in the Lightning's zone, and there were more and better scoring opportunities.

But those glaring defensive mistakes proved extremely costly.

"We did a lot more better things," Niklas Kronwall said. "The defensive side of things, the neutral zone a few times when they just skated right through us, we have to be better with the details, knowing where to be on different occasions."

Said captain Henrik Zetterberg; "The mistakes we did make really cost us, and they scored on them. Other than that, it was a step forward for us."

Babcock was particularly pleased with the improvement offensively, where the Red Wings had 24 shots and played heavier on the puck.

But the coverage errors couldn't be overcome.

"We had better offensive play, and we moved the puck better and didn't spend as much time in their end," Babcock said. "Yet their goalie (Ben Bishop, 23 saves) was better (than Game 1).

"They didn't get very much, but when they did, they buried it. We made some big mistakes through the neutral zone and then sorting it out in our zone. They had way more opportunities last time (Game 1). We were more inside and more in control."

So, the Red Wings go into Game 3 in need of a victory and hoping to put together a complete game.

Goalie Petr Mrazek was outstanding in Game1, a huge reason the Red Wings stole a victory. But Saturday, Mrazek was pulled after two periods, although it was hardly the young goaltender's fault.

"You have to give your goalie a chance," Babcock said. "You can't make those kind of mistakes and think the goalie will make those saves.

"If you give him a chance to battle, he'll battle for you but today we didn't make lots of them but we made them enough that they were able to bury them."

Babcock will likely make lineup changes.

Young defenseman Alexey Marchenko struggled with coverage in particular and could be replaced by Brendan Smith (who Marchenko replaced) or Jakub Kindl.

Up front the return of Justin Abdelkader (hand) will force someone out of the lineup. Stephen Weiss or Tomas Jurco would appear to be possibilities after two ineffective games.

The Red Wings felt they created some momentum and some positives they can build on.

They'll have to, now that it's become essentially a five-game series — with the Red Wings holding home ice advantage the rest of the way.

"It's a long series and tied 1-1 and we're going home," Zetterberg said.

"It was better (Game 2) than the first one. We stole the first game here and we worked ourselves into this series.

"Even though we lost (Saturday) we look forward to get in front of our own fans."

Red Wings vs. Lightning

Series tied 1-1

Game 1 : Red Wings 3, Lightning 2

Game 2 : Lightning 5, Red Wings 1

Game 3 : Tuesday, at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Game 4 : Thursday, at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Game 5 : Saturday, at Tampa Bay, time TBD

x-Game 6 : April 27, at Detroit, time TBD

x-Game 7 : April 29, at Tampa Bay, time TBD

All remaining games on FSD and 97.1 FM. Game 4 also on CBC

x-if necessary