Photos by Jen Hefner/MiHockey
By @SKubus –
DETROIT – Defensive lapses and offensive struggles molded the Red Wings’ fate Thursday night.
Detroit fell at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena, a 3-1 final. Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 41 of 42, and Scott Hartnell potted the game-winner. Justin Abdelkader scored the lone goal for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard turned aside 23 of 26 in the loss.
“We had lots of shots and we had lots of opportunities in the first, but defensively, we made big mistakes,” head coach Mike Babcock said.
“They didn’t get a ton of chances, but the chances we gave up, we didn’t give our goalie a chance to help us… and in the end, we didn’t score enough goals.”
As Babcock alluded to, things looked bright for Detroit early on in the contest.
At 5:04 of the opening frame, the Red Wings were handed a four-minute powerplay as Luke Adam received a double minor for high sticking Tomas Jurco.
On the ensuing powerplay, Marek Zidlicky’s laser from the point was tipped by Abdelkader in front to give Detroit an early 1-0 lead at 7:49. Zidlicky’s helper was his third point in five games as a Red Wing, and the goal marked Abdelkader’s 18th of the season and fifth in as many games.
But poor weak-side defensive zone coverage allowed defenseman Fedor Tyutin to sneak down from the point and ultimately score off a broken play in front of Howard to knot things up at one shortly after. And after a brilliant, quick passing play behind the Red Wings goal, Hartnell’s 19th of the year completed a two-goal swing to make it 2-1 with just under four minutes left in the opening period.
In a rare Joe Louis Arena occurrence, Abdelkader squared off with Columbus defenseman Kevin Connauton halfway through the middle frame. There wasn’t much action in the scrap, but it was Connauton’s first NHL fight.
At 18:30 with his club on the powerplay, Cam Atkinson caught Jonathan Ericsson flat-footed and busted down the left wing with his explosive speed before snapping a wrister high over Howard’s glove in the far corner to give Columbus a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes. That tally marked the eighth straight game that the Red Wings’ penalty kill has allowed a powerplay goal.
The Red Wings had ample opportunity to get back into the game, but following their man-advantage goal, the league’s No. 1 powerplay went 1-for-6 on the night when it was all said and done.
But that wasn’t a concern for Babcock for that very reason: the team’s powerplay is No. 1 in the league.
“I think our powerplay has been really good, and so I don’t think we’re gonna spend a whole lot of time, not too concerned about it,” Babcock said. “We’ll look at the whole thing like we do. We usually expect, when we get a powerplay, we’re gonna score. It’s been that good for us.”
The team is unquestionably in a lethargic lull right now, but Howard believed it was the team’s best effort since their road trip out west.
“I thought tonight’s effort was probably the best one we’ve had since coming off that west coast trip, so it’s definitely something to build off of.
“They’re good, they’re good down around the net. They play five tight and it’s tough to get to (Bobrovsky). We had a lot of opportunities tonight. A lot of them came from the outside, and they did a great job of boxing out and allowing him to see it.”
And with the Boston Bruins now just five points back of Detroit with a shootout victory over Tampa Bay Thursday night, the team can only hope it indeed gets back into a groove.