DETROIT – They talk about getting more "ugly" goals, but at this point the Detroit Red Wings will take any kind of goals they can get.
Pretty, ugly or "garbage," the goals just aren't coming for a team that's used to scoring them in bunches. The result is what's ugliest, and Thursday night's 4-1 loss to the visiting Calgary Flames was the most recent example.
It extended Detroit's winless streak to six games – the first time that's happened since February 2008 – and didn't do anything to improve on the Wings' paltry average of a goal a game during this span. According the Elias Sports Bureau, they're also the first team in League history to start a season 5-0-0 then follow it with a winless skid of six games or more.
"We have to stick together as a team in here," said forward Henrik Zetterberg, who won just two of the 14 face-offs he took and finished with a minus-2 rating. "It doesn't really matter what we say we're going to do or what tactics we're going to use. We just have to go out and do it right. We have to stick together and believe in ourselves and keep going."
Doing that, however, is proving to be a lot more difficult than it sounds. Not only have the Red Wings (5-5-1) run into offensive problems, they've also come up against some stout goalies and gutsy defenses. This time, it was Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff who stone-walled Detroit on all but one power-play goal by Danny Cleary that actually bounced off his chest into a wide open net after a shot by Niklas Kronwall.
Kiprusoff, who'd allowed five goals on just 18 shots over two periods on Tuesday, made 28 saves against Detroit. The defense in front of him blocked a whopping 20 shots – an impressive figure by a team looking to redeem itself after Tuesday's blowout loss at home to Vancouver.
Jarome Iginla scored a pair of goals and added an assist for a three-point night, Lee Stempniak scored a goal and Olli Jokinen finished with a goal and assist to lead the Flames (5-5-1). Curtis Glencross also picked up assists on both of Iginla's markers and defenseman Anton Babchuk also recorded an assist.
Babchuk also led the impressive shot-blocking effort during a four-shot onslaught late in the game by Mark Giordano.
"It's part of what we're about and when we do it the right way we're successful," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "Part of being a good defense is you've got to be a good blocked-shot team. There's a price you've got to pay to do that and it's something we address and talk about as a group. We certainly had it tonight."
Detroit had it, too. Kronwall's four blocked shots led the way to a total of 10 for the Red Wings – who also limited Calgary to just 22 shots on goal. The Wings also outhit the Flames 23-15 and had two more takeaways. As has become the trend, they just didn't score enough to make it count.
The dry spell is also magnifying the Wings' mistakes, such as the giveaway in their own zone that led directly to Iginla's second goal 8:39 into the third. A clearing attempt didn't get out, Glencross hopped on the puck and zipped a perfect pass to Iginla for a one-timer that found the back of the net.
Iginla's first marker also came off a one-timer from Glencross to make it 2-0 on a power play 4:37 into the second period. Calgary also got its first goal off a bad-angle shot by Stempniak late in the first, after he grabbed a loose puck and threw it at Howard hugging the left post.
The puck hit his right arm and rolled up his back into the net as the pro-Detroit crowd groaned. The mood changed almost halfway through the second with a penalty by Calgary's Scott Hannan. He appeared to send Jiri Hudler headfirst into the boards behind the Flames net with a shove, but was called for a just a hold as the impact with the boards opened up a gash above Hudler's right eye.
It also set up a power play that Detroit used to finally convert its first goal of the game to make it 2-1. That brought the building back to life. Another sequence in the waning seconds of the second also put a jolt into the arena. Kronwall was called for a holding penalty with 11 seconds left, but a non-call a few seconds later on an apparent high stick by Babchuk really drew a reaction – from fans and the Red Wings bench.
It was one of the few times to that point where the Wings showed a lot of emotion. Detroit killed off the rest of Kronwall's penalty to start the third, but the scoring woes continued and paved the way for the Flames to ice the game.
How frustrated are Red Wings fans?
As Jokinen took the puck up ice for a shot at an empty-net with time waning, somebody hurled an octopus that landed near the center-ice "Hockeytown" logo. Jokinen still potted the goal, but wasn't in the mood to worry about what's wrong in Motown.
"I haven't really paid attention to what they've been doing," said Jokinen, who centered Iginla on the top line for the first time in two seasons. "We've got our own problems. We don't really focus on what they're doing and we really don't care. The way we played against Vancouver (on Tuesday), it was quite embarrassing and we wanted to show for each other and our fans that we're a better team than we were a couple of nights ago."
That's the challenge the Red Wings' still face, and their next shot comes Saturday at home against the Anaheim Ducks. They've now dropped the first two games of a six-game home stand, which is also eating at them.
"We're the same team that was 5-0," Cleary said. "We're (also) the same team that's 5-5-1. We've got to find a way to grind out a game until we get our groove going. The good thing about hockey is you can get right back at it and we've got another chance on Saturday."