Wings notebook: Power-play struggles costly; McCarty honored on Fight Night anniversary

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Sometimes games can be decided to the simplest level, and Saturday's Red Wings game was one of those afternoons.

Tampa defeated the Red Wings 2-1 in overtime on the strength of scoring two power-play goals.

The Wings, on the other hand, didn't score with the man advantage while having five attempts in the game (Tampa was two-for three).

Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) scores on Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) during the third period on Saturday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.

Sure, there were a lot of other variables in the game, as in any game. But the Lightning scored on the power play, the Wings didn't, and that's how Tampa won the game.

"It comes down to special teams, two power-play goals," goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic said. "We didn't get the job done on the penalty kill."

Tampa has some of the best offensive personnel in the game, and coach Jeff Blashill talked Friday about the need to stay out of the box.

So, it was untimely to give Tampa a power play with just over six minutes left in regulation time, while clinging to a 1-0 lead — Tampa's Steven Stamkos scored to tie it — then again in overtime, giving the Lightning a man-advantage with more room to operate (in overtime, it's a four-on-three man advantage).

"There's a lot more space but you can kind of narrow it down a little bit, try to take your spots and recognize who is out there," Nedeljkovic said. "They were trying to feed him (Stamkos) through the whole thing, it felt like. He has a real good one-timer. 

"We have to find a way to kill that penalty."

The Wings struggled on the power play Thursday on Long Island while losing to the New York Islanders — an early 90-second two-man advantage was wasted — and Saturday was more of the same.

"I didn't think we attacked enough, attack the net enough," Blashill said of Saturday's issue. "We had opportunities to shoot from the flanks and we didn't shoot. We made it easier on their penalty kill."

Brawl anniversary

There were remembrances nearly all afternoon of the 25th anniversary of the Red Wings' legendary brawl, and overtime victory, over the Colorado Avalanche.

Darren McCarty, who scored the winning goal and pummeled the hated Claude Lemieux in that game, was an in-arena analyst. There were video montages throughout the game. Fans roared every time a video or picture was flashed.

As usual, any mention of March 26, 1997, got hockey fans in Detroit riled and excited.

"I've watched of videos of it before, it was a different game back  then," Nedeljkovic said. 

The Wings have already played Colorado twice this season, and though there weren't any full-scale melees, Nedeljkovic did notice an undercurrent.

"You could tell there was a little bit of feistiness over there, especially going into their building," Nedeljkovic said. "There is some history there, for sure, and it's cool to be part of."

Blashill was a fan of the Wings then, and lived through the disappointments and heartaches, so March 26 was a certain kind of vindication.

"You have those tough moments when the team doesn’t do well," Blashill said. "That grind through the late '80s and early '90s, there were some great moments and some heartbreak moments.

“I watched the (playoff) series the year before as a fan, so that (brawl) was an unbelievable moment. It’s played here a lot and I’ve seen it played a lot, and it deserves it. It’s one of those lightning-rod moments for a team and probably for the organization, given what happened after that.

"I’m sure there were 100,000 people in the building that night, but anybody that was in the building, what a moment that would have been."

Good impressions

Newly acquired forward Oskar Sundqvist and defenseman Jake Walman continue to make favorable early impressions.

Sundqvist scored the lone Wings goal (Sundqvist's second since joining the Wings), and Walman blocked a team-high four shots and had two shots on net.

"They're hard workers and playing with kind of a chip on their shoulders, something to prove since being traded," Nedeljkovic said. "It's a good opportunity for both of them to get some playing time and they're taking advantage of it."

Ice chips

Defenseman Marc Staal and forward Givani Smith were unavailable because of injuries, but forward Filip Zadina returned to the lineup after being ill Thursday.

... The Little Caesars Arena ice had a rough afternoon, after a quick turnaround Friday night from a Pistons basketball game.

"The ice was probably out there less than 12 hours," Nedeljkovic said. "You have to battle through it, and they (Lightning) were playing on the same ice." 

... Defenseman Moritz Seider played a team-high 25 minutes, 57 seconds, including getting caught on ice for a 4:07 shift in the second period.

"It's one of those things where you kind of circle the wagons and hold on tight," Blashill said. "He did a decent job when he was in there. He stayed with it."

...The Wings are 8-6 in games decided in overtime this season.

Red Wings at Penguins

Faceoff: 5 p.m. Sunday PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

TV/radio: BSD-Extra/97.1

Outlook: The Penguins (39-17-10) are clinging to second place in the Metro Division, but are winless in their last two games including Thursday's 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers. ... C Sidney Crosby continues to star (43 assists, 66 points), and G Tristan Jarry (32-13-6, 2.32 GAA, .921 SVS) has solidified the goaltending.

Twitter: @tkulfan