|Before he picked up this third-period penalty for interference, Drew Miler gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead in first with his third career shorthanded goal. It was Detroit's second SHG of the season. (Photo by Getty Images) |
TAMPA, Fla. – For a penalty killer there’s nothing better.
Rarely rewarded on the scoresheet for their diligence while the team is shorthanded, penalty killers cherish every special-teams goal they can score.
“You don’t get many of them, so it’s nice when they can go in for sure,” Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey said.
Forward Drew Miller was the recipient of a Florida Panthers’ mistake, leading to a shorthanded goal in the first period of Tuesday’s game at BB&T Center. It was the third shorthanded goal of Miller’s NHL career.
“Obviously the first thing on our mind is to not get scored on, shut down their power play and we take pride in that,” said Miller, who is averaging 3:08 of shorthanded ice time per game. “Anytime you can score a goal, help the team out that way it’s huge, and short-handed don’t happen that often on our team, so it was nice to get one there.”
Miller’s first-period goal, which gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead, was just the team’s second shorthanded tally of the season, and 12th since the 2011-12 campaign.
“I take pride in them and on the penalty kill, so definitely scoring a shorthanded goal you get excited about that,” Miller said. “It’s pretty rare. The Red Wings don’t score a lot of goals on the penalty kill over the years. To get one was nice.”
Miller’s goal Tuesday was made possible when Jonathan Ericsson swept a loose puck off the half wall and into the neutral zone. From there, Miller outraced Panthers rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who made a diving attempt to poke the puck away from the Wings’ charging forward. But Miller managed to corral the puck and move into the zone alone before slipping a backhander underneath a sprawling Roberto Luongo.
“They came up the ice and they tried to force it through the middle far side and Ericsson intercepted it and put it up the boards,” said Miller, who has three goals and nine points in 48 games. “I kind of saw him get it and I was coming late into the zone.”
Miller now has three career shorthanded goals in his career. The others were against Minnesota on March 11, 2010 and at Columbus on Jan. 14, 2011.
The Wings’ penalty kill has struggled lately. Detroit has surrendered goals in five consecutive games – and nine of the last 12 – while killing just 11-of-19 opposing power plays. Still, the Wings are ranked No. 8 in the league with an 83.2 percent kill rate.
“The good thing it’s just been five games,” Miller said. “We’ve been good for a lot of other games, so we kind of just have to flush that and get back to what we know works, the mindset and the structure that we know we’re capable of. So we’re not worried but it’s something that we have to correct and not let it linger on.”
The Red Wings provided too many opportunities for the Panthers, committing five minor infractions for the second straight game. Florida took full advantage of the situation, too, scoring three power-play goals. It was the first time this season Detroit has allowed more than two power-play goals in a game.
Coach Mike Babcock was not at all happy with the way the Wings took penalties, particularly a first-period delay of game infraction and a too many men on the ice call in the second period.
“Well, obviously, and the way we took them and obviously our penalty kill hasn’t been good enough,” he said. “We got to get our penalty kill fixed because we were on our heels (Tuesday) on the penalty kill instead of being aggressive and so that’s confidence and we got to get that confidence back.”
One of the fewest penalized teams in the league – Detroit is No. 5 at 8.3 penalty minutes per game – the Wings will need to stay out of the penalty box against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
“We have to stay out of the box,” Quincey said. “At the end of the day we can’t control that to a degree. The refs have a big role in that. But when we do get calls, we’re going to get calls, we have to kill them off.”
MONSTER GETS CLOSER: Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) continues to practice with the team and is inching toward a return to the Red Wings’ lineup, perhaps as early as next week.
“I feel better and better,” Gustavsson said on Wednesday. “Today I had more work than I did in the past, so it felt pretty good. Still take it day by day, but yeah, I feel like I’m getting closer.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland alluded earlier this week that it’s possible that Gustavsson will be sent to AHL Grand Rapids for a rehabilitation stint, maybe as soon as this weekend.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to do that,” said Gustavsson, if he were sent to Grand Rapids. “It’s not only to get the shoulder to work, it’s to get my game overall back and all of that. So I’m sure together we’ll find a way to do that. … That’s a good option, especially when they’re so close to Detroit.”
The Red Wings will return to Detroit early Friday morning. In all likelihood, Gustavsson could be assigned to the AHL club for their home game Saturday against the Milwaukee Admirals.
Gustavsson has missed the past 35 games since suffering a shoulder injury in the waning seconds of overtime against the New York Rangers on Nov. 5.