DETROIT – Faceoffs were a killer for the Red Wings Thursday night.
Led by centers Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette, the Phoenix Coyotes rebounded from two lopsided losses this week to defeat the Red Wings, 4-2, at Joe Louis Arena.
For most of the game, the Red Wings uncharacteristically chased the puck after the Coyotes won 66 percent of the draws.
“We lost the first seven faceoffs in our own zone and we didn’t skate very well,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve never been beat like a drum like that at home, ever. Obviously, their intensity was much higher than our intensity. I know we have good faceoff people, we’ve been a real good faceoff team, and tonight, for whatever reason, we weren’t.”
Through four games, the Coyotes are No. 5 in league faceoffs, winning more than 55 percent of the draws. Last season, Vermette was one of the league’s top centermen, finishing in the top six with a 57.4 winning percentage in the face-off circle.
Hanzal and Vermette combined to win 31-of-46 faceoffs – that’s a 67.4 percent efficency – against the Red Wings, who as a team managed to win 24 draws. Vermette also scored a goal and he and Hanzal each added an assist.
“I think we were in the 20 percent range in the first period,” said center Stephen Weiss, who was 5-of-21 in the circle. “It was something we talked about. We want to be better in that area. When you lose a lot of draws like that you’re chasing the puck a lot of the times. We have to find a way to win a lot more than we did tonight.”
Andersson scored on a rebound from Jakub Kindl’s initial shot that Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made a save on.
“Kuba took it down the side and threw it back in the slot there,” Andersson said. “(Daniel) Cleary drove the net and the rebound came out to me and I put it in.”
Ericsson then became the first Wings’ defenseman to score this season when he took advantage of Smith, who seemed to be distracted by Justin Abdelkader as he waved his stick at Ericsson’s shot from the right point.
The shot fooled Smith who was beat to his glove side on the goal.
Babcock said he was glad to see the Andersson line produce, but warned that others must begin to contribute soon.
“We need everybody,” Babcock said, alluding to the other third forward lines. “You can’t just have one line, we have to have everybody playing and tonight we didn’t. We were poor as a team.”
The coach singled out Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson as a line that needs to get going one both ends of the ice. Franzen and Alfredsson were minus-3, while Weiss was minus-4 on Thursday.
“They lost the faceoff on the first one and broke down in D-zone coverage on the second one. Any way you look at it that puts you in a tough spot,” Babcock said. “They didn’t generate any scoring opportunities, they weren’t clicking and they weren’t good enough for us, so we’re going to have to look at it and see what we can do.”
The two teams will meet for the last time this season when the Coyotes host the Red Wings at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., next Saturday.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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