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Keeping leads has been difficult lately

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Red Wings’ most recent problem hasn’t been building leads, it’s been sustaining them.

Despite taking a lead into the third period of Saturday’s eventual loss to Los Angeles it was a microcosm of the Wings’ inability to maintain leads in  the last week.

“When you’re spending time in your zone – your shift is about 40-seconds long – when you spend 30-seconds getting out, you don’t spend much time in the offensive zone wearing on them, and it just gets to be a bad cycle,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

The Wings have blown four third-period leads in their last five games, including shootout losses at Dallas (Jan. 16) and Washington (Jan. 19). Detroit is 1-2-2 in its last five games.

“We let it slip through our fingers,” said goalie Jimmy Howard referring to the 3-2 loss to the Kings at Joe Louis Arena. “We were up 2-1 going into the third, and we needed to find a way to close them out. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that.”

In the five-game span, the only game that the Wings did not take a lead into the third was last Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago. In that game, the Wings battled back from a two-goal deficit.

Detroit picked up a win in Minnesota on Thursday, but they still needed a shootout to get the job done after blowing a two-goal lead. Saturday’s loss carried some extra sting, because the Wings are chasing the Kings for a playoff spot.

“These kinds of games, we have to win,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “The teams we’re playing right now, they’re battling with us for playoff spots, and we have to get these points if we want to be the playoffs. It’s not good enough.”

The Wings (25-18-8) are ninth in the Western Conference, though they would have moved into the seventh slot had they hung onto a lead Saturday.

“We haven’t been able to play that defensive style when we’re up by two goals,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We had a couple chances late in the game to tie it up, but we didn’t have any sustained pressure in the second period.”

Zetterberg said that the easiest way to keep the lead is to keep attacking.

“We just have to keep playing,” he said. “We can’t just play on the lead and kind of sit back, we have to keep playing in their end and go after them.”

FAN ON THE CATWALK: During the second intermission and early into the third period Saturday night, three fans somehow managed to get onto the catwalk high above the ice at Joe Louis Arena.

Section 123, just to the left of the Red Wings’ team bench, was cleared as precaution by JLA ushers, though the game was not interrupted.

“I didn’t know what was going on at first,” Lidstrom said, “and then somebody pointed it out.”

Lidstrom said he hasn’t seen anything like it.

“No, I don’t think I have,” he said. “It looked like they cleared out a whole section for what was going on up there. We didn’t really know what was going on when we first came out” for the third period.

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