Frans Nielsen on the Red Wings' ugly first period. The Detroit News
Detroit — If you want to pinpoint Monday’s 7-5 loss to Columbus for the Red Wings, just look to the first period.
Or better yet, turn your head. For much of the 20 minutes, it wasn’t that visually attractive.
And, forced to rally once more, the Wings almost did, two Anthony Mantha third-period goals, cutting Columbus’ lead to one.
But the Wings (10-11-3) never could get the equalizer — and saw their losing streak reach three games.
“We got outworked, they skated more than we did,” said forward Frans Nielsen of the deciding first period. “We got outworked basically and we don’t have the talent here to afford to get outworked. We have to show up every night.”
The Jackets took 3-0 first period lead, outshot the Wings 16-10, and capitalized as the Wings wilted as the deficit grew.
“We got outcompeted through too much of the period,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We better compete harder. We certainly had our chances in the first but you have to execute when you have chances, too. It could have been a 3-3 game.
Jeff Blashill on his team's non-competitive first period. The Detroit News
“Once we got down 2-0, they steamrolled us. We allowed those goals against to deflate us. I don’t know if it was the start as much as after we got down…it deflated us too much, we have to make sure we’re more ready to battle than that.”
The loss was the third consecutive for the Wings, who got two goals from Mantha, and one each from Gustav Nyquist (ending an 8-game drought), Mike Green and Dennis Cholowski (power play).
Goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 13 of 16 shots in the first period – “We let Howie out tot dry out there,” Nielsen said — before Jonathan Bernier relieved to begin the second period. Bernier stopped 12 of 15 shots.
Pierre-Luc Dubois had two goals, and Josh Anderson, Artemi Panarin (power play), Markus Nutivaara, Boone Jenner and Seth Jones (empty net) provided Blue Jackets goals.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves, and frustrated the Wings at crucial moments with the game in doubt.
Mantha, who had a team-high 10 shots on net, scored two third period goals, the second one at 17:48 to cut the lead to 6-5.
But Jones scored an empty-net goal 31 seconds later to cement the wild win.
“We have to be ready, that’s the key,” said Mantha of the opening 20 minutes. “We’ve talked about it. If we play 60 minutes, we’re a hard team to beat.”
Mantha has six goals in his last eight games — three in the last two — and is quietly one goal from Andreas Athanasiou for the team lead.
“Anthony has been real good for ever since the Dallas game (Oct. 28) when we put him on a line with (Dylan) Larkin on a fairly consistent basis,” Blashill said. “He’s been very good. It didn’t result in goals right away, but now it’s coming. He’s really starting to heat up.
“He’s skated, created a lot of opportunities, and he’s been physical.”
Mantha’s first goal cut the lead to 5-4, but Columbus (14-8-2) regained a two-goal advantage on Dubois’ second goal of the game, at 3:34.
Dubois tucked the goal into the net after a scramble around Bernier — video confirmed it after countless minutes of review — and Columbus had an important 6-4 lead.
“We had a lot of momentum going and momentum is a huge deal in this league,” Blashill said. “We had momentum, and it goes the other way, and that’s a tough one for sure. We need to not give up that chance.”
Said Mantha: “That was a good call. The puck was loose and we weren’t sharp enough defensively.”
The Jackets had a 5-1 goal lead midway in the second period, but goals from Green and Cholowski cut the deficit to a manageable two goals.