DETROIT – Without their scoring leaders – that’s right – leaders plural, the Red Wings dug deep Wednesday night, especially Tomas Tatar.
Unfortunately, the Red Wings didn’t have the skill and finesse of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup to help maintain a two-goal lead as the Philadelphia Flyers rebounded from a slow start to hand the home team a 6-3 loss at Joe Louis Arena.
“We stopped playing and we stopped skating,” said Tatar, who also lost three teeth to a Nicklas Grossman high stick during the second period. “They took over the game and they become a better team and scored a couple of goals and we lost the game there.”
With his second goal of the night, Tatar put the Red Wings up 3-1 midway through the second period. It was Tatar’s first two-goal game of his young NHL career and just his third ever multi-point effort.
But the Wings couldn’t hold on to the lead as they surrendered three power-play goals to the hot Flyers, who have now collected points in 10 of their last 13 games.
“Anytime you’re up 3-1 you want to win the game,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Our penalty kill has been stellar for us all year long. We gave up the shots, they scored the goals. We had a chance on the power play ourselves and never got it done. In the end I thought we had things going pretty good for ourselves through two. The third period wasn’t good enough, they were better than us. They were better than us because they lit us up on the power play.’’
Tatar now has five goals this season, which is a single-season high for the second year player. But the Wings squandered several opportunities in the second period when the Flyers sent five players to the penalty box. The Wings were 1-for-7 on the power play, meanwhile the Flyers were perfect on their three power-play chances.
“Yeah, on the power play we have to simplify and get shots on net,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “If we’re not going to score just gain some momentum for us. And our PK has to be better than three goals there.
“On both sides of the equation you can look at our power play not getting a goal there, and our PK giving up three goals. Our PK has been great all year and it’s been better and better but tonight for whatever reason we didn’t get it done. Especially with the guys we have out now our specialty teams have to be really good and we have to protect those 3-1 leads.”
Detroit took a 3-2 lead into the final period, but a four-goal effort by the Flyers snuffed out the Red Wings’ early momentum.
Tatar gave the Wings a 1-0 lead when he fired a one-timer from close range that beat Flyers goalie Steve Mason at 10:17 of the opening period. Tatar’s fourth goal of the season was set up by Drew Miller, who now has four points in his last four games.
“I try to shoot high and I just hit it,” Tatar said. “Millsie made a nice play there, a short one (pass), and I was happy it ended up in. I was sure we were going to stick together and win this game, unfortunately we didn’t.”
The Red Wings took advantage of 1:52 of a 5-on-3 power play halfway through the second period. Again, Tatar was the beneficiary of a perfect pass as he camped out in close range. This time, the 23-year-old took a pass from Mikael Samuelsson and wristed the puck into the open net at 10:13.
However, the tide turned against the Wings in the second of the game as the Flyers managed five unanswered goals by Matt Read, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier (two) and Scott Hartnell.
It’s the second time this season that the Wings have allowed six goals at home. They lost to Ottawa, 6-1, on Oct. 23.
The Red Wings entered Wednesday’s game with an 18-1-2 home record against the Flyers since the 1989-90 season. It was the first time that the Flyers have scored six times in a game at Joe Louis Arena since a 9-6 loss to the Red Wings on Feb. 16, 1990.
“We don’t have them, so you can talk about it, no sense in us talking about it,” Babcock said. “We got to win games. That’s all there is to it.”
A definite bright spot for the Wings on Wednesday was the play of the third line with Tatar and Miller and center Joakim Andersson, who won 16-of-17 face-offs and also assisted on the Wings’ first goal of the game.
“There’s an opportunity for every one of these guys right here to lead, to grab a bigger piece and do their part,” Babcock said. “I thought Tatar was a factor in tonight’s game. To me that means you get more. If you’re not a factor, you get less, it’s real simple.”
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