Vanishing 3rd-period leads raise alarm in Wings camp

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — It's beginning to become an ugly little trend.

Florida center Jonathan Huberdeau watches a puck shot by teammate Brian Campbell (not pictured) fly past Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek for the game winning goal in overtime.

The Red Wings have now lost five third-period leads in the last seven games, the latest Sunday's 2-1 overtime loss to Florida.

The Red Wings have managed to win three of those five games in overtime, which eases some of the disappointment and frustration.

But, ultimately, it's a trend that if it continues, could hurt the Red Wings deeper into the season.

"Yeah, it's not good," said captain Henrik Zetterberg of the blown leads.

The Red Wings managed a 1-0 lead Sunday on Dylan Larkin's second-period goal, although even coach Jeff Blashill admitted he wasn't sure the Red Wings deserved to be leading.

Wings give up late lead, fall in OT

They managed to keep maintain it until Florida's Reilly Smith tied it on a deflected goal with just under six minutes left in the game.

Blashill feels this is part of a team's maturation process.

"Early in the year we didn't have leads," said Blashill of the early season struggle the Red Wings got through. "Now, as we build and we have leads, you have to make sure you come away with wins.

"We can do a lot better. Part of that is keeping a lead and getting the next goal. The commonality (of all the games) is we've had an opportunity to score and put the nail in the coffin."

Said goalie Petr Mrazek: "We have to close these games early, rather than later. You can't wait until the end of the game."

The Red Wings had two consecutive power plays Sunday in the third period — and couldn't extend the 1-0 lead.

"Those two back-to-back power plays, we have to create more than we did," Zetterberg said.

Mrazek shines

Had the Red Wings been able to preserve the victory, the credit would have gone to Mrazek.

As it is, the point in the standings the Red Wings earned was thanks largely to Mrazek, who made 30 saves.

"Petr was good in net when they got their opportunities," Zetterberg said.

Mrazek had a long list of quality saves, maintaining a slim 1-0 Red Wings lead until Florida's Smith tied it on a deflected shot.

"It's tough when you (the team) don't score, but Florida is a good team and they're playing well," Mrazek said. "One goal wasn't enough today."

Offense lacking

Goals are difficult to come by, not just for the Red Wings but throughout the NHL.

The goaltenders are good, and defensive systems are suffocating any sort of offense.

Zetterberg said defense is a priority in the league right now.

"Everyone is playing systems that aren't really goal friendly," Zetterberg said. "That's the way it is. The goals against is very important — instead of goals for."

Ice chips

Defenseman Brendan Smith and forwards Teemu Pulkkinen and Joakim Andersson were healthy scratches.

Pulkkinen sat in favor of recently recalled Tomas Jurco, who dominated in Grand Rapids during a two-week conditioning stint.

Jurco played 13 minutes, 14 seconds on 19 shifts while playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards. Jurco was minus-1 and was credited with one shot on net.

Smith was replaced by Jakub Kindl on defense. Kindl blocked one shot while playing 15:51.

…Larkin has seven points (six goals, one assist) in his last seven games.

"The puck is going in," Larkin said. "It's easier to shoot when you have confidence. (But) winning would be better."

…The Red Wings have earned points in seven consecutive games (4-0-3).