Larkin's 2 goals can't carry sliding Wings
Sunrise, Fla. — The poor moms, they didn’t get a chance to see much great hockey.
Taking their mothers on a road trip didn’t provide much luck for the Red Wings, who lost 6-3 to Florida on Thursday, losing both games on the quick Florida road trip.
Maybe the moms gave their sons an earful on the plane trip back, because the Red Wings are sliding backward.
They’ve won only three games in the last nine (3-5-1) and have fallen to fourth in the Atlantic Division, now holding a razor-thin one-point lead over Pittsburgh and New Jersey for the first wild-card spot.
“We just have to keep grinding,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Every single night you have to play the very best you can and give yourself an opportunity to win.
“This is how it’s going to be and this is how it’s been this way the whole year. We’ve been in these playoff-type games the whole year and it’s going to continue to be like this. We have to buckle in and grind it out every day.”
Dylan Larkin did his best to keep the Red Wings in the game early with two quick goals. Mike Green added a third-period power-play goal, but the Red Wings couldn’t muster much else.
Trailing 3-0, Larkin scored a power play goal with 5.5 seconds left in the first period, then scored at 1:01 of the second period (his 17th goal) to pull the Red Wings within 3-2.
But the Panthers buckled down, scored late in the second period on a disputed goal, and Jaromir Jagr’s 16th goal (power play) — the 738th goal of Jagr’s career — made it 5-2.
“The fifth goal took the wind out of our sails a bit,” Blashill said.
Blashill pulled goatltender Jimmy Howard — who had another rough game — twice at key times during the latter half of the third period for an extra attacker and got a goal, but also saw Florida score an empty-net goal out of the gamble.
Vincent Trocheck’s empty-net goal at 14:19 gave Florida a 6-3 lead. When the Panthers were whistled for too many men at 16:05, Trocheck’s goal suddenly made the road look much tougher.
“When they score it’s easy to say it’s (too) soon,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “There was a lot of time left. If we would have scored it would have looked real smart. It’s easy to stand here afterward and say we shouldn’t have (pulled Howard), but it was a lot of time left and when they got that too-many-men penalty it would have been nice to just have a two-goal (deficit).”
Said Blashill: “Anytime they got the puck and come in and score right away (Trocheck’s goal) it doesn’t look good. But I would have done it again. We hadn’t generated anything for about a five-minute stretch. We weren’t generating chances, so I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Howard made 27 saves but saw his winless streak reach seven games. Howard hasn’t won since defeating Arizona on Dec. 3.
“I don’t think it’s confidence at all; I’ve got all the confidence in my ability,” Howard said. “It’s just it would be nice to get a little puck luck. But in that puck luck comes working hard and continuing to grind it out.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while, so it’s just up to me to continue to find a way.”
Howard didn’t get much help or luck as the Panthers scored three goals 2:36 apart midway in the first period, putting the Red Wings in a big hole.
“A couple of bounces here and there for me and it could be a totally different game,” Howard said. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses to you guys. I’ll continue to work hard and I know how fortunate I am and I’m going to remain positive.”
Jagr, who turns 44 next week, had a goal and two assists for the Panthers — including his 1,100th career assist — to pace the Panthers.
“He prepares so well and he works extremely hard,” Larkin said. “He’s an unbelievable role model for what he can do at age 44 and to be one of the best players on the ice.”