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Centennial Classic

Red Wings striving for consistency

Detroit encouraged by late surge at Centennial Classic, but needs more to extend playoff streak

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TORONTO -- The Detroit Red Wings seemed confused, unsure of how to feel in the aftermath of their 5-4 overtime loss to Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic on Sunday.

On one hand, they felt revived and exhilarated because of their dramatic comeback, which featured three consecutive goals in the final 6:06 of regulation to force overtime.

"You haven't really seen that from us this year," forward Dylan Larkin said somewhat excitedly.

On the other hand, the Red Wings were aching and frustrated with their effort earlier in the third period, when they allowed three goals to Toronto rookies Mitchell Marner, Connor Brown and Auston Matthews in a span of 3:42, getting outskated and outworked.

Video: DET@TOR: Larkin crashes the net, buries a rebound

Detroit had a 1-0 lead after two periods. It trailed 4-1 with 7:55 remaining in the game.

"It can't happen," forward Tomas Tatar said. "Out of nowhere, we just turn it off for a few minutes and they score.

"Huge heart. We bounced back. But you have to play 60 if you want to play in the NHL."

And that's the key for the Red Wings if they want to use the positives from their effort at Exhibition Stadium, if they want to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoff race, if they want to extend their remarkable playoff streak to 26 consecutive seasons.

The stats show the Red Wings are going nowhere with the season getting late early. They are seventh in the Atlantic Division and seven points out of a playoff position with four teams in front of them for either a divisional playoff berth or a wild card position.

However, the Red Wings showed something Sunday that should be galvanizing, that should build confidence and give them a feeling that they can dig out of the hole they're in in the playoff race.

Detroit was averaging 2.3 goals per game heading into the Centennial Classic. They scored three in the final 6:06 of the third period, giving them at least three goals in four straight games for the first time this season.

"I'm not sure if we've done that this year," captain Henrik Zetterberg said of scoring three goals so quickly. "That showed that we have what it takes to come back. They scored three goals, so we can score three goals, and we did."

No one is suggesting the Red Wings are going to score three goals the way they did Sunday in every game, let alone three goals total in every game. They don't have the firepower to do that consistently, but they've shown in the past four games that they can score more than they have on average to date this season and they should have the goaltending to be better than giving up the 2.89 goals per game they are currently allowing.

Rookie Jared Coreau got the start Sunday and was good for two periods, stopping all 17 shots he faced before allowing five goals on 11 shots the rest of the way.

Video: DET@TOR: Coreau robs Kadri with great pad stop in OT

Coreau started because he was solid with 26 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and because Petr Mrazek has been average for the entire season with a .896 save percentage and 3.11 goals-against average.

Mrazek has to step up in the absence of Jimmy Howard, who has played like a No. 1 when healthy (.934 save percentage, 1.96 GAA in 17 games) but will be out at least through the end of the month because of a sprained right knee.

The Red Wings have shown they can be a dangerous team, even if they are still flawed offensively, when they get quality goaltending like they did in Ottawa and for the first two periods Sunday.

"I thought we played really good hockey for three periods [in Ottawa]," Tatar said. "This is the kind of stuff that can happen. Besides the turn off, we played another good game [Sunday]. We have to talk about what happened, take the best from the game and be ready for the next one."

Detroit's next five games are on the road, starting at the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday, the first of three straight in California, always a challenging trip for any team, especially one that has played two games outside the Eastern time zone this season like the Red Wings.

They can't make their season in these next five games because of how many teams they have to pass and how many points they need, but the Red Wings will be in deep trouble if they come home with the same mixed emotions they felt in the aftermath of a thrilling game Sunday.

"We've got to be more consistent," Larkin said. "No one has all the answers and we've got some injuries and a lot of guys playing in their first or second years, a lot of young guys, but we've got to find a way to play consistently like we can and we have, like we did in the first and second period [Sunday] and the way we came back and the way we played against Ottawa the other day. It is a process, but we've got to be way more consistent."

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