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Power play gets back on track

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Johan Franzen extended his season-high point streak to four straight games with a power-play goal Sunday against Tampa Bay. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – It’s taken some time, but the Red Wings’ power play seems to be on track as both special teams units are getting involved lately.

“We’ve got great skill on both those units and we’ve got a lot of guys who can score on both units,” Gustav Nyquist said. “So it’s great to see both of them working for the moment.”

Despite power-play goals from Johan Franzen and Darren Helm, the Red Wings lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

It marks the first time in more than five years that Detroit has scored two or more power-play goals in three consecutive games. The Red Wings’ power play is now 6 for 13 in the past three games with goals by Tomas Tatar and Helm, and two each by Franzen and Jakub Kindl.

Puck retrieval and hustle seems to be the biggest keys for the Wings’ power-play success right now.

“We’re getting the puck back, moving the puck quicker and really attacking when we get it, even off the rush now,” Nyquist said. “Helmer scored off rush today on a power-play breakout and that’s great to see so I think just the biggest thing is we’re attacking more and getting the puck back and getting those second and third opportunities.”

The Wings’ power play struggled last month, going 0 for 27 during a seven-game stretch from Oct. 15-29.

“Obviously it was a really slow start for us on the power play and now we’ve got some goals here,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It definitely helps to get the momentum if you don’t have it, and if you have it, it helps to keep it.

“It’s really important for us when we get the opportunity in the power play – even if we don’t score – you have to get the momentum, and we’ve done that the last couple of games.”

The two power-play goals each against the New York Rangers, New Jersey and Tampa Bay is the first time since February 2009 that the Wings’ specialty team has been this robust. They went 9 for 17 during that stretch in 2009, including a 6-2 win over Nashville on Feb. 18 when they went 5 for 6 with the man advantage on goals from Jiri Hudler, Nicklas Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Franzen (two).

Sunday evening, the Red Wings and Lightning exchanged power-play goals in the first period with Franzen and Steven Stamkos getting on the scoreboard. For Franzen, it was the second straight game that he’s registered a goal on the man advantage.

Franzen’s shot from the top of the left circle beat Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, giving Detroit an early 1-0 lead at 6:14 of the opening period. His power-play goal on Friday was the game-winner in Detroit’s 4-2 victory over New Jersey.

The Wings fell behind 3-1 before Helm scored the second power-play goal on his career, his first since Nov. 23, 2013 against Ottawa.

“On the power play, couple of good plays, passes up the ice, good speed, just got me going wide,” Helm said. “I just wanted to get a good hard shot on net.”

Helm’s goal came from the top of the right circle. He ripped slap shot that beat Bishop above his left catching glove and tight to his shoulder, pulling the Wings to within 3-2 at 11:37 of the second period.

Nyquist’s even-strength goal – his team-leading eighth of the season – tied the game, 3-3, at 8:49 of the third period.

Detroit had opportunities in overtime to wrangle a way a second point in the standings, but couldn’t get anything past Bishop, who made 17 saves in earning his fifth win in six career starts against the Wings.

It was the seventh time the Wings have played beyond regulation this season. They are now 2-5 in those games, including 0-3 in the shootout.

Meanwhile, Nyquist, Tatar and Helm all missed in the shootout. Detroit shooters are 1 for 8 against opposing goaltenders this season.

“We’re pretty tired of losing in the shootout but at the same time, down 3-1, found a way to get a point, a small positive out of that,” said Helm, who is 1 for 3 in career shootouts. “It just seems like we haven’t found a way to win those shootouts. We got lots of talent, lots of skilled guys that can put pucks in the net but just haven’t found a way to win any.”

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