Bad start buries Red Wings in 4-1 loss to Florida

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

A terrible start Tuesday dearly hurt the Red Wings.

Harkening back to some of the recent bad starts, the Wings allowed three goals in the 7 minutes 35 seconds — including the first one 17 seconds into the game — and it proved to be too much to overcome, losing to Florida 4-1

Filip Zadina (power play) cut the Florida lead to 3-1 in the second period, but the Panthers responded to restore the three-goal lead.

"It was as bad as we've played defensively in a while," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We had plenty of chances to score, but it was porous as we've played defensively. Individuals getting beat back to the net, not protecting inside ice, getting players behind us.

"It's not good enough. We played as good as we have all season on the weekend. We weren't at our best. We had a bunch of guys who played their B or C games and that's how it unfolds that way."

Goaltender Calvin Pickard, coming off two impressive victories last weekend against Columbus, wasn’t able to carry over the good fortune.

Pickard allowed three goals on eight shots and was replaced by Thomas Greiss (23 saves), although the Wings were hardly helpful defensively, basically sleepwalking the first half of the first period.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek (17) and Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) fight for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Sunrise, Florida.

"You want to get settled into the game, and he (Pickard) never got the chance to settle in," Blashill said.

The Wings (12-21-4) saw their modest two-game win streak end, and lost their ninth in the last 11 games against Florida.

The Wings played better beginning in the second period, the attention to detail was significantly better, but the start Tuesday just wasn’t good enough.

"We didn't have a great start," forward Dylan Larkin said. "Puck management (was an issue). It's not the way we have to play and not the way we were playing. Not acceptable.

"It took a little while to get into it and unfortunately we were down 3-0."

Tuesday's game was the Wings' ninth in 17 days, with game every other day essentially until April 10. The physical and mental grind may have contributed to the sluggish start, but Larkin maintains the team has to work over it.

"They (games) go by but you can't let them slip by and you have to find a way to take care of your body and get your mind away from it, especially on the road," Larkin said. "You can't make excuses. Everyone has to go through it and you can't make excuses. We have to have better starts. We have to find a way to come with more energy."

Coming off the 120 minutes of impressive hockey against a hard-working Columbus team, it was surprising to see the Wings' start so slowly.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Thomas Greiss (29) guards the goal against Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) during the second period.

But that's what happened, with the Panthers quickly blitzing the Wings.

"It happened fast and you have to make sure you are great defensively," Blashill said. "We have to make sure we're a hard team to play against. "

Carter Verhaeghe scored two goals, and Jonathan Huberdeau and Brett Connolly had the others for Florida (23-9-4), while goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 35 shots.

The surging Panthers were without injured defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and forwards Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist, and lost Anthony Duclair midway in the game, and yet controlled the game.

Just 17 seconds into the game, after a faceoff, Florida forward Mason Marchment went into the corner with three Red Wings defenders but got to the puck first and fed Huberdeau in front for Huberdeau’s 16th goal.

Verhaeghe cut to the net, took a backhand pass from Duclair, and poked a shot past Pickard,  making it 2-0 at 11:27.

With the Wings reeling, Florida didn't let up at all.

Gustav Forsling's shot from the point was redirected by Connolly, who missed on a fine chance earlier in the shift, extending the Panthers lead to 3-0.

"They scored on their chances and we didn't," said Blashill, noting the overall scoring chances were even. "As a coach I don't want to give up that many chances, but we created a lot of chances for sure."

Greiss replaced Pickard and the change appeared to ignite the Wings.

Zadina cut the lead to 4-1 in the second period, on the power play.

Dylan Larkin found Zadina alone low in the circle and Zadina powered a shot past Bobrovsky for his fourth goal at 7:29.

The Wings had several good shifts after the goal but couldn't get anything past Bobrovsky, who was as sharp as he's been all season against the Wings.

The Panthers restored the three-goal lead with Verhaeghe's second goal, and 17th of the season, at 12:11 of the second period.

Twitter: @tkulfan