DETROIT – The NHL’s First Star of the Week was summoned from the bench to make his first relief appearance of the season on Wednesday.
It wasn’t an ideal situation for Jonas Gustavsson, who entered Wednesday’s game late in the first period of a lopsided 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena.
“That’s hockey. You’ve got to be ready all of the time and when you get the call you just have to go out there and think of it as if you started the game,” said Gustavsson, who allowed a season-high three goals. “You have to do whatever you can to help the team.”
Making his 15th career backup appearance, and the fourth in relieving starter Jimmy Howard since last season, Gustavsson was in an unenviable situation against a jilted Senators bunch seeking retribution on their former captain.
The Sens scored three first-period goals and chased Howard, who stopped five shots.
“You get frustrated, you get mad,” Howard said. “You definitely want to be better for the guys out there. The guys deserve better than what I gave them tonight, but at the same time it’s hockey. It’s a game of bounces and tonight we didn’t get many of them.”
The night was originally meant for Daniel Alfredsson, who played his entire 17-season career in Ottawa before signing with the Red Wings in the offseason. However, the spotlight was stolen by center Jason Spezza, the Sens’ new captain, who scored a pair of goals on two shots.
“It’s disappointing for us to lose the way we did at home tonight,” Alfredsson said. “I would have loved to win this one no question, but we played a good game against San Jose and now we took a step back. We have to get back with a good effort on Saturday and move it in the right direction.”
The Red Wings were coming off perhaps their best defensive performance of the young season in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Sharks on Monday. The team has an off day Thursday and will practice Friday before they welcome the New York Rangers to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.
“Well, yeah, I mean the other night we really paid attention to details, but just seemed like tonight we were a step behind all night long,” Howard said. “The good thing about this is we have a day off tomorrow and gives us a chance to regroup and get ready for Saturday night.”
The Senators built a 3-0 lead and chased Howard from the Wings’ crease 14-minutes into the first period on goals by Eric Gryba, Spezza, and Bobby Ryan.
It was the first time the Red Wings trailed after the first period since last year’s home finale against Nashville, and Howard shouldered the blame.
“I think I could have been in better position on all three of them,” he said. “Instead of putting us in the hole, 3-nothing, maybe we’re only down a goal heading into the second period and it could have been a totally different outcome.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been pulled, probably, definitely not the last, so you just move on as quickly as possible.”
But there was plenty of blame to go around for the Wings, who didn’t move very well in the first period and allowed the Senators to get pucks deep into the attacking zone.
“We have to take charge. We have to want to do something with the puck,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Tonight was too much watching the other team play, starting with myself. I know I have to be better and I think a lot of guys in here feel the same way. Each and everyone get a few percentages better, that way we can help each other become a better team.”
The Red Wings trailed 3-1 at the first intermission when Todd Bertuzzi scored a power-play goal on a wraparound. But Spezza scored his second goal on a nifty shot that caromed off the end boards and landed in front of Gustavsson, where the Sens’ captain slapped the puck past the Wings’ goalie.
“He had a good shot and I was just trying to come out and challenge him and I was looking back at the net for the puck,” said Gustavsson, who made 17 saves against the Sens. “I really couldn’t find it. I guess it bounced up instead of down like it normally does, and I couldn’t really see where the puck was. I tried to look at Spezza at the same time I was trying to find the puck too and it ended up on his stick. It was a pretty weird bounce, but that happens sometimes.”
On Monday, Gustavsson learned that he was recognized by the league for his three-game performance last week when he made 102 saves on 107 shots while leading the Red Wings to three consecutive wins over Boston, Columbus and Colorado.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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