Unfortunately much, much more was needed to overcome a couple of bigger mistakes that led to a pair of power-play goals by the St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Wings, 3-2, before a sold-out Scottrade Center.
“The mental mistakes can’t happen; those are free goals that we just gave away,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, referring to the Blues’ power play that was 2-for-8 Tuesday. “I would have liked to see our power play play better as well, but in saying that the penalty kill has to be better than that.”
The eight penalty-kills equaled the most for the Wings this season. The other time came in a 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota on Nov. 1
The first period was scoreless after two big plays. The first occurred on a big kick save that Blues goalie Brian Elliott made on Todd Bertuzzi
. The second save came on Stuart’s quick-thinking, which prevented a Blues’ goal by Chris Stewart with 1:37 left in the period.
With five players and goalie Jimmy Howard
congregating in the Wings’ crease, and the puck slowly moving toward the goal line, Stuart – the only player lying on the ice at the time – managed to use his gloved left hand to sweep the puck out of harm’s way.
“They took the puck to the net and I fell down,” Stuart said. “I saw the puck was heading over the line, so it was one of those reaction things, just a split second and you just react, and luckily I was able to get it before it went over.
“If I was to close my hand on it or even partially throw it or cover it, then they could have gotten a penalty shot. I just swept it out and didn’t close my hand on it, it was a good play.”
The Wings then took advantage of a huge mental miscue by Blues forward David Backes in the second period. Backes made the mistake of engaging Tomas Holmstrom
along the boards in front of the Blues’ bench. The poor judgment by the Blues’ captain resulted in a roughing penalty that the Wings soon capitalized on.
And 64-seconds later, the Wings had a 1-0 lead on Johan Franzen
’s team-leading 13th goal of the season. Jiri Hudler
raced into the offensive zone and spotted Franzen along the half wall above the right circle cut. The Wings’ big forward then cut in and around Blues defenseman Roman Polak before making like a basketball power forward, who would drive the base lane on the way to the rim. Franzen drove the goal line before wristing a shot off Elliott’s left shoulder and into the net at 7:42.
The goal was Franzen’s league-leading eighth on the power play and third in three games. Howard also received an assist on the play, giving him four career helpers.
However, the Wings gave the lead back when the Blues scored their first power-play goal just two-minutes later when Alex Steen scored off a deep zone face-off with Jakub Kindl
serving a tripping minor. Jason Arnott beat Justin Abdelkader
on the draw to the right of Howard. The puck went right to Steen at the top of the slot and he fired a slap shot that found its way through Howard’s legs at 9:20.
“I thought the second period was really cooking and a real good period of hockey,” Babcock said. “Obviously, I’m disappointed in the back-to-back goals that we gave up in the third. I thought everything was going our way, we had it setup perfect for ourselves, but you can’t make those mistakes.”
The Blues scored two quick goals to start the third. They took a 2-1 lead when Backes added a pretty power-play goal just 45-seconds into the period following a Niklas Kronwall
penalty for delay of game 11-seconds in.
Moments later, a turnover deep in the Blues’ zone and a breakout capped by Patrik Berglund’s blast from the left face-off dot gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead at 2:38.
“We made big errors and we made a mistake on the face-off and got picked in on the first one, that’s basically a mental mistake,” Babcock said. “I thought on the second one it was an easy read and we misread (it) and as one guy goes we all go. We were standing there flat-footed, and even on the third goal, (it) was a two-on-two and we played it like a two-on-one. So those are some critical mistakes, and in saying that it was a pretty good hockey game. I thought both teams played hard and we gave ourselves an opportunity and didn’t get it done.”
The Wings got within a goal when Hudler scored his third of the season, on the power play, at 18:40.
But far too many mistakes made it difficult for the Wings to overcome.
“We gave up too many penalties and gave up a couple of goals on it,” Stuart said. “That’s not good enough for us. Take a penalty and they capitalize, they did a good job, but we would like to stay out of the box, especially in a tight game like that.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill