Detroit — There are plenty of great offensive lines in the NHL these days but the Calgary Flames can argue they have the best.
The Flames’ trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm dominated as Calgary rallied to defeat the stumbling Red Wings, 5-3, Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena.
The line combined for nine points — Gaudreau had four, with a goal and three assists — while each players had a goal, and the Flames (25-12-4) rolled to their third victory in four games.
“They’ve been doing it to every team in this league,” said forward Darren Helm, who returned to the lineup with a goal. “I don’t know too many teams that have an answer right now. They’re a top line for a reason and they find ways to score.”
Michael Frolik clinched the outcome with an empty-net goal with 17.7 seconds left, sending the Wings to their sixth consecutive defeat.
The Wings again let a two-goal lead disappear, which turned into a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes.
Gaudreau then broke the tie in the third period with his 22nd goal, Calgary’s second power-play goal, batting a centering pass from Matthew Tkachuk past goaltender Jimmy Howard at 9 minutes, 37 seconds.
The Wings (15-20-7) have won one game in their last 11 (1-7-3) and only three in the last 16 (3-9-4).
The Wings are a fragile team right now, not playing with a level of confidence that’s needed to win games.
“That’s the reality when you’ve lost as many as we have,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The reality is that you get to points where you’re fragile and you can pretend that’s not true but that’s not what happened. We have control over that, we have control of playing shift by shift and believe in ourselves and carrying ourselves with confidence and making the plays in big moments instead of the other way.
“Just like we did at the beginning of the year, we found a way to dig ourselves out, we have to dig ourselves out right now. We’ve been here before, let’s go find a way to dig ourselves out.”
Helm (in his first game since Nov. 17), Jacob de la Rose, and Andreas Athanasiou (penalty shot) had Wings goals, while Howard — who was named the Wings' representative to the All-Star Game earlier in the evening — stopped 30 shots.
TJ Brodie had the other Flames' (25-12-4) goal, a goal Howard would love back, as the puck popped out of his glove and into the net.
“It should never have gone in,” Howard said. “I can do better, most definitely. I have to be better. I just can’t be giving up a freebie like that.”
As for the All-Star selection — the second of his career — Howard was proud and excited.
“It’s fun because you’re representing your team and organization,” Howard said. “This time, it’s going to be unique, because my boys are at the age they understand it and they know names on the other teams.”
Monahan cut the Wings’ lead to 2-1 at 6:40 of the second period with his 22nd goal.
Filip Hronek dove to block a pass to Gaudreau, but got nothing of the puck. Howard stopped Gaudreau in front, but the puck bounced to Lindholm who slipped a pass to Monahan alone at the side of the net.
Brodie’s goal tied the game 2-2, before Athanasiou put the Wings back ahead with his penalty shot, and 14th goal.
But Calgary tied it again, capping the offensive flurry with Lindholm’s 19th goal, a power-play goal.
It was the Wings’ third consecutive penalty kill in the third period.
“You can’t kill that many penalties,” Blashill said.