Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard met the media Wednesday night following a loss to the St. Louis Blues. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
St. Louis — On the first night of life without Tomas Tatar, well, the Red Wings could have used his offensive ability.
Streaky as he was, Tatar obviously had the ability to score some goals, and the Red Wings desperately needed that that one more goal from anybody Wednesday night, losing 2-1 to the St. Louis Blues.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard was good, stopping 24 shots and keeping the Wings close, but the lone goal was Andreas Athanasiou’s 13th, at 18:15 of the third period.
Offense has been a problem all season — the Red Wings rank 28th in the league in goals — but without Tatar, others will need to help out.
“It depends if other guys score or not,” coach Jeff Blashill said after the loss, talking about compensating for Tatar’s loss. “Someone is (possessing) his minutes and they have to score. It’s not on a guy like Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi, who replaced Tatar on Dylan Larkin’s line), it’s on everybody. There are more minutes going around, more power play opportunity, and guys have to score.
“We had a power play early and one in the second, and they were brutal. We have to be way better than that on the power play. So how much we miss Tats will be how well other guys play.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill met the media followning Wednesday night's loss to the St. Louis Blues. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
St. Louis forward Scottie Upshall scored at 1:12 of the second period, poking a loose rebound past Howard, and Alex Pietrangelo gave the Blues some cushion with his 11th goal at 14:37 of the third period with a blast from the dot, all the offense the equally goals-starved Blues needed.
“We have to finish more chances,” Blashill said. “It doesn’t allow you to make any mistakes if you don’t finish (and capitalize scoring chances). We need to have more desperation. We’re trying to do the same thing they are, which is to make the playoffs.
“I know our guys played hard and competed but we have to find a way to score a little more. I still think we have a little more in us.”
Blues goalie Carter Hutton stopped 35 shots, maybe the biggest being stopping Henrik Zetterberg on a rebound attempt with just under seven minutes left in regulation time, preserving the 1-0 lead at the time, and the Red Wings swarming.
The loss ended a modest two-game win streak for the Red Wings (26-27-10, 62 points), who are seven points behind Columbus — eight points to pass the Blue Jackets — for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It was like a playoff game, those guys were desperate too,” Larkin said. “I loved the way we competed and started. Howie was awesome. If we play that way consistently the rest of the season, we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”
But with only 19 games left for the Red Wings, time is ticking away.
The Red Wings probably had reason for optimism headed into this one given the state of the Blues.
Near the top of the West earlier this season, they entered Thursday with an ugly seven-game losing streak, including an embarrassing 8-3 loss in Minnesota the night before.
But the Blues (35-26-4, 74 points) ended that misery with a stout, defensive gem.
“It’s not fun to lose seven in a row, and we knew they had a tough night in Minnesota,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “But we came out good and matched their intensity. It would have been nice to get that first goal but they got that one.”
With offense difficult to come by, these types of defensive struggles will be the types of games the Red Wings will need to play — and win — the remainder of the season.
“Absolutely, these are going to be tight games from here on out,” Howard said. “We played a real good road game. We knew it would tight out there (Thursday) after what they endured last night, and they made it tough for us.”