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Slow starts quickly take shine off Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Petr Mrazek makes a save during the first period Sunday against the Florida Panthers.

Detroit – The Detroit Red Wings want their final season in Joe Louis Arena to be a memorable one.

But it will not be if they keep starting games as they did last weekend.

Slow starts against Boston and Florida doomed the Red Wings to a pair of ugly losses, taking the luster off a six-game win streak.

“It’s a big year for us at Joe Louis and we want to have good starts, good games, for our fans,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We need to have a better effort than that.”

The weak first periods particularly bothered Zetterberg, who took some of the blame.

“Just the way we’re losing battles in the first period, they’re coming in here with a lot more urgency than we have,” Zetterberg said. “It’s something I’ve got to be better at, preparing the guys.”

The Red Wings allowed three first-period goals Sunday to Florida, helping the Panthers to a 5-2 victory.

A steady run of poor defense contributed to the poor first period.

“Ultimately it’s on me,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the listless first period. “That’s my job, to make sure they’re ready. I appreciate Henrik saying that (putting the blame on himself), but I would say this: Without question you’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror and make sure you’re ready to go.

“We had too many guys not ready to go.”

Could that be a problem going forward in this long season? Blashill doesn’t think so.

“I have 100-percent belief in the group in this locker room, so I’m not concerned long-term at all,” Blashill said. “All I’m concerned about is (Sunday), and that wasn’t good enough. I don’t have any worries about the level of leadership or the level of character that we have in this locker room.”

No problem

Goaltenders Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard have erased many Red Wings defensive mistakes this young season. But Mrazek was left on an island too often Sunday, allowed four goals on 10 shots, and was replaced by Howard in the second period.

“Petr has been excellent for us,” Blashill said. “I just didn’t want to leave him in there and continue to get hung out to dry. Sometimes you just need a momentum change.  That was it.

“Both goalies have been excellent and it certainly wasn’t their fault.”

Howard stopped 13 of 14 shots and once again provided evidence of possibly gaining more playing time in the near future.

“We evaluate all of our guys every day,” Blashill said. “We’ll continue to evaluate every day.”

Power play is bright spot

One bright spot from the loss to the Panthers was the success of the power play, which contributed both Red Wings goals.

The Red Wings had gone 0-for-17 on the power play in the previous four games.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan