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Bittersweet experience for Red Wings

Saturday, 10.03.2009 / 8:27 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer
STOCKHOLM -- Bittersweet is the only way to describe it.

The Detroit Red Wings came here with eight Swedes hoping to make a lasting impression on their own countrymen and women. They brought NHL hockey, the best in the world, back home to Sweden and planned to put on a show while enjoying the week.

Oh, they enjoyed the week and it will never be forgotten, but the Red Wings boarded their charter flight bound for Detroit late Saturday night without a victory against the St. Louis Blues in the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere-Stockholm.

They blew two-goal leads both nights and lost 4-3 Friday and 5-3 Saturday. Needless to say, that was not on their list of things to do in Stockholm.

"It's real bad," Tomas Holmstrom, who is from the northern city of Pitea, told NHL.com. "We're really disappointed with the way we played."

Not all was lost this week though.

The eight Swedes got to see friends and family they normally never see in the months of October through June. They also got to show their other teammates from Canada, the U.S., Finland and Russia what their culture is all about.

Henrik Zetterberg was a hit wherever he went. Nicklas Lidstrom was named an ambassador of Dalarna County, where he's from. Both were cheered like the national icons they are every time they touched the puck in the first period of Friday's game.

"It's been a great experience, almost a dream come true to make a trip like this with the Wings," Lidstrom told NHL.com. "It has been somewhat of a hectic week, but a fun week with having a chance to catch up with some old friends and having a chance to play in front of the fans here in Stockholm. I thought it was a great atmosphere in the rink."

Sellouts both nights, the 13,850 in the Globe Arena cheered loudly for the Wings, who just couldn't deliver the goods or go home with what they came here for in the first place.

"Yeah, but also overall it was a great week for us," Zetterberg said. "We had a lot of fun here. It's something we'll always remember that we came back here to play in front of friends and family by bringing our team back here. Unfortunately we couldn't win any games, but it was fun to be here for sure."

It won't be so much fun when they touch down in Detroit early Sunday morning local time. The Red Wings already have some catching up to do in what will undoubtedly be a tight Central Division race.

Their defense and penalty killing, both points of emphasis all preseason after being bones of contention all last season, weren't very good. The Blues were 4-for-9 on the power play this weekend and scored nine goals on 55 shots.

"We should be able to win games 2-1 or 2-0," Holmstrom said. "We shouldn't have to score five goals all the time to win a game."

The Red Wings power play was 2-for-10, which doesn't look terrible until you consider that they failed on a 5-on-3 for 1:36 on Friday night and couldn't get more than four shots on goal in six minutes of power-play time in the first period on Saturday.

An extra power-play goal in either of the games and Detroit might have at least earned a split here or possibly even taken home a pair of wins.

"Absolutely, but at the same time we have to play better hockey over 60 minutes," Stockholm-native Niklas Kronwall said. "Sure, a power-play goal here and there might have changed the outcome, but we're not happy with the way we played over 60 minutes and that's the bottom line. We have to do a better job at that."

They probably will. These are, after all, the Detroit Red Wings and before we get too ahead of ourselves, they still have 80 games left to play.

It's way, way too early to worry, but this much-anticipated trip may not be something they want to discuss for a while.

"I had a great time coming here and it's always fun to play here at the Globe, at home in front of family and friends, but we were hoping to give them a lot better showing," Kronwall said. "It was awesome to be here, but we just didn't win the games we were here to win. It's bittersweet memories."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com




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