Detroit — The Red Wings found ways old and new to lose 5-2 to the offensively super-charged, league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
An icing call against Wings that perhaps should not have been made. A goaltender interference call against the Lightning that perhaps should have been.
The power play that went 0-for-4, including for 1:15 of five-on-three play.
Yielding another critical goal in the last minute of a period.
Getting tons of scoring chances, and failing to convert.
Not giving a hard-pressed goalie enough support.
Another game the Wings believe they could have won, even despite the comparatively lopsided final score.
A little better luck with the officiating, a little better defensive coverage, a little better “finish” on the scoring chances and the whole affair might have swung the other way.
“We had a lot of power play minutes there, tonight; 5-on-3 two times,” said Henrik Zetterberg, in yet another difficult postmortem for the Red Wings captain, who picked up his 23rd assist and 29th point of the season.
“It would have been nice with a goal or two there. It would have been a different game…
“Again, a little bit too easy for them to score. A lot of the goals, we have the puck, then they have it and it’s in our net.”
At one juncture, from about halfway through the first period until 19:00 of the second, the Red Wings outshot the enormously potent Lightning 24-7.
Despite the onslaught, they managed but one goal.
And they are now in a 1-for-20 slump on the power play.
“The power play not scoring,” Justin Abdelkader said. “That’s the difference.”
That said, Dylan Larkin fought one heck of a fight and gave a considerable accounting of himself once again, as the 21-year-old continues to develop as one of the Wings' key assets and a player of considerable character.
With the Red Wings down 2-0 at 16:35 of the first period. Larkin prevailing with a flurry of landed punches against Brayden Point gave his team a significant lift for the second period, one of their better periods of the season.
“Playing them a ton, I don’t think they like us and we don’t like them,” Larkin said. “I think it’s pretty clear.
“There wasn’t much energy in the building. I wasn’t planning on fighting. … It was good to get the guys going. It seems like we responded after that.”
The Red Wings have now lost 10 in a row to the Lightning in the regular season, despite several games they had chances to win.
Filling in for the injured Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek played well, standing little chance on most of the Lightning goals.
In fact, video reviews showed he was bumped by Lightning forward Alex Killorn on the third Tampa Bay goal. But the NHL situation room ruled it not goaltender interference.
The Red Wings got a goal from Gustav Nyquist at 3:10 of the second period, his 14th of the season, sharing the team lead with Anthony Mantha.
Abdelkader also scored, his seventh of the season, at 3:06 of the third
The Lightning proved the assertive team for much of the first period, as teams on the tail end of back-to-backs often are at the start of the second game.
They got the first seven shots on goal before the Red Wings accounted for one.
Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi scored his third goal of the year on a well-timed tip of Vladislav Namestnikov’s pass that went up over Mrazek’s shoulder before the goalie had any time to adjust.
It opened the scoring at 8:56 of the first period.
Then, at 14:11 familiar Wings nemesis Tyler Johnson scored. The Red Wings unaccountably left the offensive forward alone as he skated down the left wing and in on Mrazek uncontested, collected a pass from Girardi and easily converted.
The first period featured a lot of old-time, donnybrook hockey.
Shortly after the 16:30 mark, as the play proceeded over the Red Wings blue line, Larkin and Point encountered each other and began throwing punches.
In a significant demonstration of pugilistic instincts, Larkin wreaked terror. He later said he is not sure where he learned to throw them.
Holding Point away with his extended left hand, Larkin landed a flurry of rights, at one point four in succession, capped by a brutal uppercut.
Bloodied, Larkin required repairs. But he clearly beat Point.
At about 18:20, after Kucherov knocked Abdelkader face-first into the boards on a dangerous boarding infraction that the referees called interference and Victor Hedman hooked Abdelkader after a whistle, Tomas Tatar squared off with Yanni Gourde along the board in the Lightning zone.
The vigorous bout ended with Tatar mostly holding his own, but Gourde getting perhaps the best of it.
Play stopped in the second period amid considerable concern when Girardi took a Martin Frk shot in the back of the head and laid motionless, face-down on the ice for a while, with trainers and a doctor in attendance, before sitting up and skating off, with some assistance.
Despite the fisticuffs and hard feelings throughout, players from both teams arrayed around Girardi as Little Caesars Arena fell silent.
The Lightning eventually added two goals by Gourde and one by Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov’s came directly from a faceoff, when the Red Wings left him unmarked after what they believe was a bad icing call against them.
“Gosh, I thought Helmer had inside position on him,” Abdelkader said. “I would have liked to have at least seen the refs at least talk about it, but they were sure on that call.
“We were all frustrated because we thought it should be a non-icing call.
“But you can’t control that. It’s out of our hands.”
Jeff Blashill, plainly frustrated, thought the power play could have made a big difference.
“Well, we didn’t score. And we had chances; big-time chances. When you get four power plays and they get none, you’ve got to find a way to score on them, for sure.
“It would have made a difference in the game.”