Sunrise, Fla. — Saturday’s game in Tampa typified yet again the season Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier has had.
Was it 60 minutes of elite goaltending? No, quite frankly it wasn’t, though the third period had moments of it.
Overall, though, it was a good enough outing that Bernier could have been a winning goaltender — but he wasn’t.
Bernier had 30 saves, again, was outstanding in the third period, but the Wings and Bernier wound up losing 3-2 to the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning.
“At the end of the day this is a league that you have to win and you have to find a way to win,” Bernier said. “Unfortunately I’ve been on the opposite side of that. I just have to find a way to maybe make that one extra big save.
“It’s just been a really tough year. But I’ll keep battling until the end and move on.”
Saturday’s loss dropped Bernier’s record to 6-16-5 for the season, His goals-against average (3.38) and save percentage (.897) aren’t stellar.
Coach Jeff Blashill has maintained his belief and confidence in Bernier and after Saturday’s loss, it was no different.
“I have had conversations with him, he’s a pro, not that that makes it easy,” Blashill said of Bernier’s rough season. “It’s hard, (but) you have to say mentally tough. He understands that. But there’s certainly times you get tested.
“He kept us in it (Saturday) as the game went along. He made some huge saves. We have to keep grinding and he’s gotta keep grinding.”
Bernier didn’t like his opening period Saturday but felt more comfortable as the game progressed.
“In the first it just seemed like it (the heat inside the arena) took a lot out of me,” Bernier said. “I felt better going into the second and third. I battled hard mentally and just kind of got myself into the game.
“Some nights you just don’t feel great and you have to battle through.”
Sunday’s 6-1 loss in Florida was another example of how much the Wings miss forward Dylan Larkin (neck strain), who missed his third consecutive game.
The Wings only had 20 shots on net and few quality scoring chances.
Blashill said Larkin will see doctors Monday in New York, and will know Tuesday if he’s available to play against Montreal.
“I don’t know that answer,” Blashill said of whether Larkin would be available Tuesday. “If all goes well and the doctor gives him clearance, he’ll join us. If he doesn’t, we’ll adjust from there. I’ll know more answers Tuesday morning.”
Saturday’s loss in Tampa was the Wings’ 14th consecutive regular season loss against the Lightning.
The last time the Wings defeated Tampa in the regular season? It was Nov. 3, 2015, a 2-1 Wings victory
The Wings have lost 13 straight games in Tampa, incidentally. The last victory for the Wings there? A 6-2 victory Feb. 17, 2011.
“It’s really frustrating,” forward Anthony Mantha, who had a goal Saturday, said about the losing streak. “It started pretty much the whole time I’ve been here. It stinks we can’t win against these guys.
“I don’t know what it is.”
Said forward Justin Abdelkader: “It’s obviously frustrating. They’ve had our number. A lot of one-goal games. We have a chance next week to play these guys, so (we) look forward to that opportunity.”
The Wings get one more chance this season to end the streak — Thursday at Little Caesars Arena.
Defenseman Madison Bowey was reinserted into the lineup, replacing Luke Witwkowski. Bowey played 18:11, with two hits, and was minus-2.
... Rookie Filip Zadina was quiet against the Panthers, with zero shots in 13:58, two giveaways and a minus-1 rating. Zadina will play Tuesday in Montreal and Thursday against Tampa, before being returned to Grand Rapids.
... Thomas Vanek scored in back-to-back games, and has two goals and two assists in the last four games.
... Panthers coach Bob Boughner sensed the Wings were a team that had played the night before in Tampa, while the Panthers had the day off.
"Our legs were good early," Boughner said. "You could tell Detroit played the night before and we were just ready to play. Our execution was on early and there weren't any holes in our game."
... Florida's Josh Brown and Dryden Hunt both scored their first career NHL goals Sunday.
... The Wings were able to secure only three of a possible eight points against the Panthers this season (1-2-1).