Goaltender Jimmy Howard was encouraged with the Red Wings' performance despite losing, 3-1, in Tampa. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Tampa, Fla. — This was significantly better. It was competitive and a type of game the Red Wings want to play.
Now, they’d like to win, which they didn’t do Thursday against the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-1 loss at Amalie Arena.
The game wasn't decided until Tampa's Alex Killorn scored an empty net goal at 18 minutes, 53 seconds of the third period, giving Tampa a two-goal lead and providing the necessary cushion.
But this encouraging, a step far away from the ugly losses recently.
“Certainly it was much better than what we talked about the last two days,” said coach Jeff Blashill, referring to the defeats in Boston and Montreal by a combined score of 15-5.
“We got away from playing the right way for too long the last two games. Tonight was much better, much more the way we need to play and the way we were playing earlier in the season.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill talks about his team's performance following a 3-1 loss in Tampa Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
The Wings have now opened the season with seven consecutive losses (0-5-2, two points). The franchise record is 10 and the NHL record is 11, so they are closing in on those marks.
“It’s obviously not easy,” said forward Luke Glendening, who scored the Wings’ lone goal and continued a fine all-around start to this season. “But we have to stick together. This is the time when character shows through. We played better, but we didn’t get the result.
“We have to keep working.”
Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos also scored for the Lightning (4-1-0, eight points).
Both goalies had outstanding moments, but Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (29 saves) was just a bit better than Jimmy Howard (28 saves).
Getting a victory for the Wings these days is hard to come by, but getting a win in Tampa has been particularly difficult.
The Wings have now lost 12 consecutive games to the Lightning — and have also lost 12 in a row in Tampa.
The last time the Wings have beaten Tampa? It was a 2-1 victory on Nov. 3, 2015 at Joe Louis Arena.
The last time the Wings left Tampa with a victory? All the way back to Feb, 17, 2011, in a 6-2 victory.
“That’s a good team and we’ve had some real good games against those guys,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We have to find a way to get an extra one against them and beat them.”
The Wings received a lift by the addition of defenseman Trevor Daley (neck) in the lineup after missing the last four games.
Daley added needed veteran presence and savvy to a position group that had been playing four rookies but was down to two in this game.
Daley played a team high 23 minutes, 2 seconds, assisted on Glendening’s goal, and had three shots and two blocked shots.
“One guy matters, especially guys who are real good players in the league like Daley,” Blashill said. “Less weird stuff happens when you have veterans who don’t force things when there’s nothing there. Certainly having Daley back helped.”
Stamkos broke a 1-1 tie, converting his first goal of the season on a one-timer in the slot from Nikita Kucherov.
The Wings killed two consecutive Tampa power plays early in the third period, then had a glorious scoring chance with Darren Helm in alone on Vasilevskiy, only to be turned aside.
Other observations from Thursday's game:
►The Wings aren’t shooting the puck enough when there are scoring opportunities. It’s been a season-long issue and Blashill was quick to hit upon it again afterward.
“We’re still passing up chances to shoot the puck,” Blashill said. “We have to figure that out. Shoot the puck and let’s score on the rebounds.”
Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Helm all had quality chances — Athanasiou and Mantha on the power play, and passed the puck.
►Speaking of Mantha, he’s struggling. He did get four shots on net in only 13:13 of ice time, but was largely a non-factor again. He only has one goal on the season, and the lack of consistent passion in his game is again an issue.
►Howard hasn't had much help in front of him in the early going, but there was more structure in front of him in this game andhe did his part with a fine evening.
Howard stopped Stamkos on a 3-on-1 rush in the third period, keeping the game at 2-1.
►The Wings weren’t good on the power play — going 0-for-5 — but were perfect on the penalty kill, keeping Tampa off the scoreboard on all four of its power play attempts.