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Red Wings too often trying to make extra pass when they should be shooting

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

If a hockey team doesn't shoot the puck, it obviously limits its chances of winning a game.

Because, well, the puck never reaches the net in the first place to even have a chance of getting past the opposing goaltender.

Pretty basic stuff. But so, so true.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cal Foote (52) dives in an attempt to block a shot by Detroit Red Wings right wing Filip Zadina (11) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 4, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Red Wings lost 3-1 Friday in Tampa and one key reason was simply the fact the Lightning were much more active in getting pucks on net.

The Wings were-out-shot 38-23, and appeared too often wanting to make that one extra pass, maybe attempting to be too unselfish, and it resulted in no shots. No pucks on net. No ways to score, in a game against an elite team, in which goals were important.

“We played a good hockey game,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “We started really well, had some chances, a lot of two-on-ones. We have to be a little more selfish and shoot the puck."

The Wings have been a team over the years that have been often guilty of looking to pass first, rather than shoot. But sometimes, being a bit selfish and looking to shoot is the best option because it's the best scoring chance on a rush a team may have.

“I don’t know if it’s looking for the pretty goal and you want to slide it over to your linemate but we could’ve had a little more of a shot focus,” Larkin said. “We did a good job getting those chances."

Several quality scoring opportunities went awry Friday with over-passing, that may have been a difference in the Wings tying the score midway through the game.

"It's probably trying to be too cute and trying to make that extra play," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We have to make sure we do a better job of getting into those scoring areas and at very least, show shot and freeze the goalie. Have that mentality we're going to shoot first and make a play second.

"Too many of those times in those situations, we have a mentality we're going to make a play."

Back on track

Some good news to come out of Friday's loss was another fine game from goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.

After being mired in a month-long slump, Nedeljkovic has now put together two quality games after bottoming out in the 10-7 loss against Toronto.

Nedeljkovic stopped 35 Lightning shots and kept the Wings close with some quality saves in the final 40 minutes.

“He played great tonight,” Larkin said. “He’d be the first one to say he’s been fighting it a little bit. That was a great performance out of him. He was calm, ate up a lot of rebounds and didn’t kick much out. We have to find a way to put some in the net."

Blashill has often talked about how good team defense often complements  good goaltending.

The Wings have been better defensively lately — as has Nedeljkovic's goaltending.

“Part of when maybe he wasn’t in his groove, we weren’t playing good enough defensively," Blashill said. "He’s finding a better groove and we’re playing better defensively. Those things go hand in hand.”

Rowney injured

The Wings might again be without forward Carter Rowney for a period of time.

Rowney appeared to injure his foot in the second period blocking a shot by Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman.

Rowney had difficulty getting up off the ice, struggled to get to the bench, and went to the locker room and missed the rest of the game.

Rowney had scored in the last two games, after missing with 17 games with a lower-body injury.

“It was a great block, it showed tons of courage,” Blashill said. “It hit an area outside of where the protection is, and it was unfortunate. We probably missed him as the game went along.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan