Red Wings fall in shootout to Panthers on JLA’s 35th anniversary

redwings_boxBy @SKubus

DETROIT – On the 35th anniversary of Joe Louis Arena opening its doors for the first time, the Red Wings were unable to clinch a win under its storied lights.

For the second time in 10 days, the Florida Panthers came to Detroit and took two points with them, this one by a 3-2 final in the shootout Friday night. Saginaw Spirit, Plymouth Whalers and Little Caesars product Vincent Trocheck scored the shootout winner, while Roberto Luongo made 29 saves. Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist lit the lamp for the Red Wings, who fall to 17-6-7 on the season.

“You want to get the extra point for sure, but I thought we did lots of good things,” head coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re a good team, they play good, and there was not a lot of room out there… The bottom line is they won the shootout, so they get two points.

“Right now, when we get to the shootout, we’re not a confident group, so we’ve just got to keep working on it. There’s no sense hanging our head and getting disappointed. We’ve talked about it, we understand that we’re affected by it mentally right now. Let’s fight through it and find a way to win one.”

In what was a much better start against Florida this game than last week’s tilt, Sheahan recorded his seventh of the season, a power play tally, to begin the scoring at 5:03. Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar drew helpers on the goal.

But just 2:08 later, Fleischmann buried his third of the season on his own rebound in the high slot to even things at one aside. And the Cats continued to pounce on Detroit for the remainder of the period, as amidst a scrum in front of Howard, Jonathan Huberdeau found the puck and swiped it in past Howard at 13:55 for a 2-1  lead.

With a mere 38.5 seconds remaining in the opening period, Nyquist scored his 14th of the year with a gorgeous spinning-backhand shot after taking a feed from Zetterberg.

After a lively opening 20 minutes, both teams settled down for the next 20, as very little was given up on either side.

Jakub Kindl took simultaneous minors for interference and cross-checking early in the third period, which set Florida up with a dangerous four-minute power play, but the Red Wings managed to ward off the Cats’ attack. Both teams went on to exchange opportunities, but nothing substantial, much like the middle period.

Just like Wednesday’s tilt against the Maple Leafs, overtime solved nothing. Both teams entered the game 1-4 in shootouts on the season, but with the way Detroit has been performing in them this season, it seemed as if Florida was a dominant shootout club. Trocheck and Brandon Pirri each scored, while neither Nyquist nor Datsyuk could not convert for the Red Wings.

“You’ve come that far, you want to get two points, but can’t find a way to get through a shootout, so obviously it’s tough,” Zetterberg said.

Despite the disappointing result, by clinching one point, Detroit tied the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Red Wings next head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs Saturday night.

Notes: Stephen Weiss did not return for the third period, and Babcock said after the game he is currently out with a shoulder injury.