Wings offense fails to back up Howard in loss

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jimmy Howard said he would take the blame. But arguably only the first goal was his fault in the Red Wings’ 3-2 loss to the Sharks on Friday.

Pavel Datsyuk said he should have scored in his first game of the season after missing 15 while recovering from ankle surgery.

Henrik Zetterberg said lots of shots are one thing, but the quality of the scoring chances needs to improve.

Coach Jeff Blashill liked some aspects of an improved offensive performance, but the bottom line is his hockey club still needs to find the back of the net more often.

Outshooting the Sharks 28-14, and outplaying them for long portions of the game, the Wings still managed to lose. And the affair left them with an “ah, fiddlesticks!” sort of feeling.

They still seem to improve in some areas game-by-game. But the overall offensive effort remains suspect.

“We couldn’t really sustain any pressure in their zone,” for stretches, Henrik Zetterberg said.

Sure there were lots of shots, but it was the quality of the opportunities that left the Red Wings with only two goals, after scoring just one in each of the previous two games.

They last scored more than two goals on Halloween against the Senators.

“They played really tight in front of him,” Zetterberg said of the Sharks goalie Martin Jones, who also made some fine stops.

“When they got that two-goal lead (3-1 at 10:23 of the second period) they stacked up in front of their goalie and it was tough to get the puck through and tough to put it in. But we’ve just got to find a way to be a little crisper.”

Howard wanted to accept the blame, and his failure to seal his short side along his body left leg pad at the left post cost the Wings their early 1-0 lead when Melker Karlsson scored his first of the season, banging away at the puck until it was behind Howard.

“No, that first one can’t go in,” Howard said. “When the guys aren’t scoring, you know, that first one can’t go in. So, tonight’s on me.”

That said, the Sharks were all over him, and no one interceded to stop Karlsson’s repeated attempts.

On the second goal, Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green failed to straighten out their coverage and it left a Sharks player without coverage — Matt Nieto, the goal scorer.

The third Sharks goal came on a tip by Joe Pavelski after the puck had already been deflected, and through a screen in front of Howard.

He never saw the puck, until it was by him.

Jeff Blashill agreed that at least the second goal was blown coverage, but he attributed the first to a puck deflecting off the side wall, bouncing, breaking the play and scrambling the coverage.

“I think the biggest thing with that, though, is we’ve got to find a way to score more goals,” he said. “Because you’re going to have some of those issues.

“I think we’ve defended great, we’ve had great goaltending all year. We’ve got to find a way to score more goals.

“From a possession standpoint, we had a lot more time in their end than they had in our end. They had very little time in our end. But we’ve got to pay a bigger price to score goals, still.”

Datysuk’s excitement about his return was tempered, therefore, by the puck not going in for him.

He led the team in shots on net, with four. But, evidencing a little rustiness, he also led in giveaways with three, while going two-for-six in the faceoff circles.

He felt fine, he said. But he has to score.

“Yeah, like I had good chances,” Datsyuk said. “But I need to score, I realize, with one. It’s not good for either me or the team, if I don’t score.

“It’s not going to come just with the shots.”

Datsyuk said his reaction to his first game was the same as after other first games back from injury, for himself and almost any player.

“At first, everyone just flying past you,” he said. “But it’s common. Every shift, it’s better and better.”

As he has watched the team struggle to score, and now joins them, Datsyuk said he believes it is matter of shooting, getting rebounds and shooting more, until the team is more threatening offensively.

“I see enough games, I think we need more shots and more shots from the rebounds,” he said. “I think we just keep the puck. But I think if we have more shots, we’ll be more dangerous.”

But 28 shots is quite a few for the Wings by this season’s standards. Now it seems like a matter of burying more chances.