The Red Wings learned that valuable lesson Sunday night in their 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.
Now, down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals, the Red Wings are vowing to play with a lot more discipline when the series resumes Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
The Wings had to kill off 10 penalties Sunday -- they've been shorthanded 16 times in the first two games -- and Sharks center Joe Pavelski made them pay with two power-play goals before Joe Thornton delivered the decisive score with 7:23 remaining.
"Any way you look at it, you're not going to win many games being shorthanded 10 times," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I don't know if we were first or second as far as being the least-penalized team in the League during the regular season. Obviously after the first two games we have to look after our sticks and have to kill penalties because we're going to the box way too much."
Pavelski, who has four power-play goals in the first two games of the series, tied the score during a two-man advantage at 4:40 of the third period with Todd Bertuzzi
(holding) and Niklas Kronwall
(hooking) sitting side by side in the penalty box.
"It's frustrating," said Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard
, who faced 20 shots while his team was shorthanded, 45 shots overall. "You can't give a team like that that many power plays. They're going to make you pay. The five-on-threes, it's tough. You can't give those guys that. They have five guys that can bury it."
Howard was even more frustrated when Thornton collected his first goal of the postseason to break a 3-3 tie.
Dany Heatley skated down right wing with the puck on a two-on-one rush after Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
's stick snapped while attempting to launch a shot. Howard made a save against Heatley, but the puck caromed off teammate Brian Rafalski and Thornton knocked it in.
"It went off Raf's skate and went right to Joe," Howard said.
Lidstrom, who scored an early second-period power-play goal to give the Red Wings a 3-2 lead, shook his head at his misfortune.
"It's just one of those things," he said. "The puck's coming off the boards and I tried to one-time it and my stick just broke in half and they're going the other way."
Any way you look at it, you’re not going to win many games being shorthanded 10 times. Obviously after the first two games we have to look after our sticks and have to kill penalties because we’re going to the box way too much. - Wings coach Mike Babcock
But the Red Wings acknowledged it might not have come down to that if they'd played with more discipline throughout the game.
"We put ourselves in penalty problems again and they got the tying goal on a five-on-three, so we have to do a better job of not being in the box," Lidstrom said. "We have to keep our sticks down and keep moving our feet."
The Red Wings were penalized five times in the third period -- one more time than the Sharks were for the entire game -- and shot themselves in the skate with 1:04 to play when they were assessed a penalty for too many men on the ice.
"I don't know how many minutes we were shorthanded in the third," Babcock said. "Obviously it got them right back in the game. That's three times in this series we've been scored on with three guys on the ice. You're not going to win like that.
"There's no sense questioning anything except we're in charge and we can't be going to the box. We have to look after our own sticks and our own play. The reality is you can't have momentum when half the players don't get on the ice because they're sitting the penalty box all night long. It's pretty hard to get anything going."
Author: Rick Sadowski | NHL.com Correspondent