DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's most common terminology for getting off to a good start in games is "starting on time," but lately his team seems to be starting games by repeatedly hitting the snooze button.
Detroit has fallen behind in eight of its last night games, including the regular season and two of the first three games in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators. As a result, the Wings find themselves down 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), a building where they lost 3-2 in Game 3 on Sunday after falling behind 2-0 before making a furious effort to come back.
"I thought someone told me it was like 80 percent of the time during the regular season when you score first you win, so I don't think that's any different now," Babcock said after Monday's practice. "It's a priority for everyone. You want to get started on time. We lost the first four faceoffs last night. That led to forechecks … any way you look at it, that leads to momentum. That probably leads to you taking a penalty and more momentum, so you got to start on time for sure and it's a priority each and every night.''
The Predators owned the faceoff battle early in Game 3, winning 75 percent of the draws through the first 15 minutes of the game and taking a 1-0 lead on Shea Weber's power-play goal just 2:48 into the game.
The Red Wings again struggled with committing early penalties in that game and it wound up costing them with not only Weber's goal, but lost puck possession and offensive flow. Johan Franzen was called for two slashing penalties in the second period, with the second one leading to a five-on-three Nashville power play.
The Red Wings killed it and actually gained some momentum from it, but that's not the ideal way Babcock wants his team to get its offense going -- especially playing without injured penalty-killing forwards Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm.
"When I look at the tape those are both penalties," Babcock said of the infractions by Franzen and Kyle Quincey to create Nashville's 23-second two-man advantage. "Stay out of the box. Real simple. It takes a ton of energy to play four against five. Normally we could have [Eaves and Helm]. They eat up a ton of those minutes, so now [Pavel Datsyuk] and [Henrik Zetterberg] are doing it. I'd rather have them shooting it in the net than keeping it out of the net, so it's a waste of energy just because I was careless with my stick. But the great thing about this stuff is we control all of it and we're going to fix it.''
If they don't, it could be more of the same as the two losses to the Predators -- both of which saw Detroit fall behind early while trying to find its footing following multiple penalties. That's why with a pivotal Game 4 on tap Tuesday, the Red Wings really are focusing on hearing the alarm this time.
"Both teams right now have teams that can really frustrate the opposing team [with a lead]," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It seems like right now, whoever scores first has the momentum throughout the game."