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Slow start bites Red Wings in loss

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Brendan Smith was tripped into Jimmy Howard, sending the Red Wings' goalie into his net. At first, it appeared that Howard was injured on the play, but he stayed in the game against the Senators. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

KANATA, Ontario – Mike Babcock warned of the dangers facing his team Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, goalie Jimmy Howard was the only player who listened to his message.

“The only person who was playing for our team was Howie,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said, admittedly.

As has been the case this season, Howard was nothing short of magnificent, making one huge save after another to keep the Red Wings within striking distance of the Ottawa Senators.

But in the end, Detroit’s sluggish start proved costly, leading to a 3-1 loss to their Atlantic Division rivals at Canadian Tire Centre.

The slow start was reminiscent to the way the Wings began Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres. That didn’t end well, either, as Detroit lost 3-2 in a shootout.

“We saw urgency … from them,” Babcock said. “I thought they played good and I thought we were as bad as we could be. You don’t like to see many games like that. Disappointing, obviously, our preparation, the job we did as coaches, the focus we had for the game, taking care of the puck. We obviously didn’t get our message across, didn’t do a very good job to have our team ready and we didn’t play hard enough as a group and in the end, it’s real simple, you do good things, good things happen to you, and we got exactly what we deserved here tonight.”

Tuesday’s first period was the real disappointment. The Wings were badly out-played in the opening 20 minutes by the Senators, who held a 16-2 edge in shots. If not for Howard, all could have been lost a lot earlier.

“It wasn’t the way we (wanted) to start, they really dictated the play, they skated in the first period and we didn’t,” said Howard, who made 29 saves. “It’s tough to get the puck in the offensive zone when they’re catching you from behind all the time. We did not do a good job of getting the puck out at our blue line and getting it in at theirs, getting in on the forecheck. They pretty much dictated the play.”

Howard came up big all night, but his highlight reel save came in the second period with the Red Wings on the power play. As Zetterberg took a shot from the blue line his stick snapped in half, creating a shorthanded breakaway for Kyle Turris. The Sens’ center skated through center ice and into the Wings’ zone unimpeded. But Howard stayed with the play and stopped Turris with a glove save, keeping the game scoreless.

“It’s tough, Z’s at the point, last man back, he breaks his stick, but I could see it developing from the tops of the circles,” Howard said. “I knew it was Turris, he’s got a great shot, so I just came out and made myself big.”

Detroit’s best scoring chance through two periods came with less than four minutes left in the middle frame and the Senators clinging to a 1-0 lead. Gustav Nyquist pounced on a turnover created by Senators goalie Craig Anderson who misplayed the puck behind his net. Nyquist quickly dished the puck out front to Riley Sheahan, but Anderson got back in time and kicked out his left leg to preserve Ottawa’s one-goal lead.

With Howard dialed in all night, the Red Wings were never really out of it. And after Zetterberg’s third-period goal, they were in the thick of it, even out-shooting the Senators, 30-16, in the last two periods. But the Senators answered on goals by Patrick Wiercioch and Clarke MacArthur (empty net) in the final 5:23 to down the Wings.

“Obviously there was a chance that we could get a point out of this,” Zetterberg said, “but you’ve got to play better if you expect to win in this league.”

The Red Wings are now 2-3-3 when they’ve scored two or fewer goals this season.

Immediately after Tuesday’s game, the Red Wings traveled to New York, where they will conclude a stretch of three games in four nights Wednesday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s a short turnaround for us, playing in the Garden tomorrow,” Zetterberg said. “It’s a tough team. We just have to get some fluid in us, some food, have a nice little flight and get ready for tomorrow.”

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