Detroit — The Red Wings were pointing at this five-game home stand as an opportunity to right themselves a bit.
But, no such luck. Detroit lost its third of those five games at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday, falling 3-2 to Montreal and continuing a rough stretch in the schedule.
The Canadiens scored twice in a span of 1 minute, 6 seconds early in the second period, then scored again just 19 seconds into the third while goalie Antti Niemi stopped 30 shots as the Wings continued reeling.
“We gave away three easy goals,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We shoot ourselves in the foot, we have to work like dogs to get our goals, and we give away three easy ones.
“It’s hard to score every night. You can’t give away goals.”
It’s getting to the point in the schedule where the playoffs are obviously becoming a distant memory, and soon it could be improving draft pick odds.
In terms of that, the Wings are doing a good job of piling on the losses.
Along with a 1-3-1 home stand, the Wings (16-22-7, 39 points) have only won twice in the last 14 games (2-9-3). And it's not getting easier, with some difficult road games against Western Conference teams coming up in the schedule.
Coach Jeff Blashill talks about the key reason for the Red Wings' 3-2 loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“We haven’t found a way to win,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “But in saying that, we have to stick with it. Everything starts with hard work and doing it right every day. We’ll get out of this.”
Beating the Canadiens hasn’t been all that easy for the Wings, either, over the last few years. With Tuesday’s loss, Montreal has won seven of the last 11 games against the Wings (2-7-2), winning this game despite having lost the night before at home against Minnesota.
Tuesday’s loss was typical of the entire home stand, as the Wings were often close — and often lost.
“We were in every game but you have to find a way to win them,” Blashill said. “This one, to me, Washington (who the Wings lost to Sunday) won the Stanley Cup, they’re a very good hockey team. This team (Montreal) is a good team, but there’s no way on a back-to-back that we shouldn’t find a way to win a hockey game.
“It’s not good enough. We need to be better than that. Frustrating is a good word. Now, frustration is a waste of time. We have to find a way to win, and wins breed confidence.”
Andreas Athanasiou scored both Wings goals, giving him 17 for the season and six in the last seven games.
Athanasiou’s second goal cut the Montreal lead to 3-2 at 4:58 of the third period, one-timing a feed from Anthony Mantha past Niemi.
“Pucks are bouncing the right way,” Athanasiou said of his hot streak. “Just keep working hard and generating those opportunities and try to make the most of them when they come.”
Red Wings' Andreas Athanasiou talks about his recent goal-scoring binge after recording two goals in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
The Wings pulled goaltender Jimmy Howard (22 saves) with over a minute left in the game but failed to generate a quality scoring chance against Niemi.
Montreal had regained a two-goal lead just 19 seconds into the third period on a goal by Jeff Petry (Orchard Lake St. Mary/Michigan State), set up by Tomas Tatar’s second assist of the game.
It was the second consecutive poor start to a period for the Wings in this game.
Montreal opened the scoring in the second period just 30 seconds into the frame.
Tatar carried the puck in the zone, was stopped by Howard, but batted the puck to Brendan Gallagher, who knocked the puck past Howard while falling to the ice.
The Canadiens extended the lead just 66 seconds later, with Joel Armia scoring his fourth goal of the season.
“A couple of slow starts in the second and third and that’s the ballgame,” Howard said. “It definitely stinks, we had a chance on this home stand to make up some ground and we didn’t do it. Now, we put ourselves in a hole and we have to keep digging ourselves to get out of it.”