Frustrated Red Wings KO'd by Wild 1-2 punch

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

St. Paul, Minn. — At least they didn’t lose by a single goal.

This time the Red Wings made sure it wasn’t by one goal, as the Minnesota Wild’s Jason Zucker scored twice late in the third period to defeat the Red Wings, 4-1.

That’s six of eight losses for the Red Wings (2-5-1), with five of the defeats by a single goal — then Sunday’s loss.

“It’s an easy time for frustration to build up,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “You should be, if you’re not you’re probably not a competitor. But, then, we have to regroup and understand there’s not one thing we can do about it but learn from it and be better on Tuesday and find a way to win.”

This script was familiar.

BOX SCORE: Wild 4, Red Wings 1

The Red Wings took a 1-0 lead after one period, on Justin Abdelkader’s 11th goal, then saw it disappear in the middle 20 minutes — just as the second period proved to be the difference in a loss in Winnipeg two nights earlier.

Minnesota’s Eric Staal (power play) and Zach Parise scored 2 minutes, 53 seconds apart — similar to Winnipeg’s quick-strike goals Friday — to take the lead and control of the game.

“We played a real good first (period), we expected them to make a push, then they scored on the power play and another, and it’s kind of snowballing,” forward Frans Nielsen said. “For a while, it seems like we score, give up two. We can’t play afraid of anything because they get one.

“We have to keep playing on our toes.”

More: Red Wings turn to Frans Nielsen for power-play help

Zucker redirected a Mikael Granlund shot at 15 minutes, 42 seconds, and added his 27th at 16:22, putting it into an empty net with goalie Jimmy Howard pulled for an extra attacker.

The first Zucker goal, Howard felt he should have had.

“It went directly in,” Howard said. “I’ve let in worse than that, it’s just unfortunate it went in. I made a mistake tonight and it’s unfortunate for us.”

The Red Wings (26-29-10, 62 points) are sinking in the Eastern Conference standings, while the Wild (37-22-7, 81 points) maintained their NHL-best dominance on home ice at Xcel Energy Center.

What may have spurred the Wild on Sunday was a big-time, heavy-punching fight between Luke Witkowski and the Wild’s Nick Seeler in the second period.

More: Former Wing Tatar scores first with Golden Knights

The fight, an old-fashioned 1970s right-hand bomb throwing escapade, awoke the home crowd and got the Wild energized, after sleepwalking through the first period.

And the Red Wings couldn’t respond.

Mainly because offense continues to be an issue.

The Red Wings scored one goal twice in the last three games, and haven’t scored more than three since Feb. 11, a stretch of 11 consecutive games.

There’s a lot of pressure defensively, and on the goaltender, with those numbers.

“We’re getting some chances, it’s just a bounce here or there,” Abdelkader said. “We’re just not finishing on them. Goals are a funny thing. Sometimes when you see the puck go in, it’ll give that confidence.

“But until we start scoring more, it’s just one of those things. Just continue to get pucks and bodies to the net.”