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Not enough resistance for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Kings' Anze Kopitar scores this first-period shothanded goal in a 5-2 win over the Red Wings Tuesday night. (Photo by Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES – The Red Wings were insufficient in vertically every aspect Tuesday night and their offense struggled mightily because of it against the Los Angeles Kings.

“I didn't think we had enough resistance. In the end, you can talk about the power play and penalty kill if you want,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said, “but the whole lot of us, we didn't play hard enough.”

The Kings jumped on Detroit early and never really lost control of the game, handing the Wings a 5-2 defeat at the Staples Center, which dropped them to a 3-6-1 mark in their last 10 games.

Certainly, playing with an injury-depleted lineup didn’t help the Wings’ cause.

For the fourth straight game, Detroit was without the use of five regulars – Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson, Todd Bertuzzi and Jakub Kindl – which clearly diminished any bite the Wings would usually have against the Kings, who quickly built a 2-0 lead and never trailed.

“I thought they had a simple plan, getting the puck in, getting on the forecheck and grinding,” Babcock said of the Kings. “You're not going to win with the approach we had tonight.”

The first period was a definite back-breaker for the Wings, especially when they could have gained a jolt from the power play, but instead surrendered a shorthanded goal on the first man-advantage of the game.

The Kings had an outstanding first period and just built on it from there. They established the tempo throughout the first 20-minutes and grabbing an early lead on the strength of their top forward line when Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar both scored. Kopitar registered the shorthanded tally, which was the Kings’ second this season against Detroit.

"They played better on special teams than we did tonight,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, who was made his return after missing three games with a strained groin. “Gave up a shortie, they got a power-play goal as well. … Another tough night for the specialty teams.”

The Wings have now allowed 10 shorthanded goals, the most they’ve surrendered in a single season since 2006-07. Only the New Jersey Devils (13) have allowed more this season. Detroit only gave up 12 shorthanded goals in the previous three seasons combined.

“We shouldn’t have let them score when we’re on the power play, so it is tough,” Zetterberg said. “We’ve been working on it, we’ve been talking about it for months now it feels but it doesn’t get better.”

The Wings made some necessary adjustments during the first intermission and began to finish body-checks, which created more energy in the offensive zone. And their hustle paid off when the Kings’ Williams turned the puck over in the neutral zone, kick-starting the Wings’ first scoring play. Henrik Zetterberg faked a shot from the half wall before making a bullet pass to Jiri Hudler in the slot and he buried it behind Kings goalie Jonathan Quick at 4:06 of the second.

Trailing 3-1 through 40-minutes, the Wings called a timeout early in the third when LA defenseman Matt Greene went to the penalty box, thus giving the Wings a two man-advantage for 34-seconds. However, Detroit was held scoreless when Quick made two fine saves, one each on Zetterberg and then Danny Cleary.

“It would have been easier if we would have scored a goal there,” Zetterberg said, “but we didn’t so they got the momentum back.”

The Wings were 0-for-4 on the power play, and is scoreless in the last six games, going 0-for-25 in that time.

Johan Franzen’s goal cut the Wings’ deficit to 4-2 at 13:30 of the third before the Kings scored on an empty net with 21-seconds left.

Despite making 22 saves in his first start since suffering a groin injury March 4, Howard wasn’t satisfied with his performance, especially now that he’s 1-3-1 since coming back from a fracture finger in late February.

“I've got a laundry list of things that I thought I could have done a lot better out there,” Howard said. “But at the same time, it was the first game back in a week and a half. I just gotta continue to work hard in practice and just get the rhythm back and the feeling back of being out there. The game was extremely fast in front of me. I'm going to have to find a way to slow it down until I get back to the game-speed of things.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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