DETROIT – As if Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes wasn’t bad enough, the Red Wings lost two key players – defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Erik Cole – one before the game, the other during it.
“Obviously they are good players, big part of our team,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “But you know I think we should find a way to win anyway. Obviously we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Red Wings played catch-up hockey all night, managing to overcome four one-goal deficits, but in the end they dropped a 5-4 decision in overtime to the Coyotes who celebrated just their third victory in their past 23 games.
With three weeks left to the regular season, the Wings (90 points) need every point they can get as they try to distance themselves from Ottawa (85) and Boston (84) in the Atlantic Division playoff race.
“These kind of games you want to get two points, but every point you can get down the stretch is important,” Zetterberg said. “We’re going to have a day off her tomorrow and come back refreshed on Thursday.”
The Red Wings continue their four-game home stand when they host the San Jose Sharks Thursday at Joe Louis Arena.
Already without the services of top-line center Pavel Datsyuk, who was missing his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury, the Wings learned before the game that Kronwall wasn’t available.
Kronwall, who skated in pre-game warmups, but left the ice early, was scratched because of a lower-body injury. Then forward Erik Cole left the game late in the first period with an upper-body injury.
It appeared Cole may have suffered a neck or shoulder injury when he fell awkwardly into Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski next to the Arizona crease at 16:10 of the period.
The 36-year-old Cole has a history of head and neck injuries. In March 2006, he sustained a broken neck when he was hit from behind by Brooks Orpik. Cole returned three months later to play in Game 6 and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Coach Mike Babcock did not have injury updates on either Kronwall or Cole.
Luke Glendening also left the game in the second period after he was rocked on an open-ice hit by Connor Murphy. Glendening did return in the third period and finished the game.
Meanwhile, Jakub Kindl, who was a late addition to the lineup, took Kronwall’s spot on the blue line where he was paired with Jonathan Ericsson for much of the night.
Kindl played extremely well, producing a goal and setting up Justin Abdelkader’s goal, which tied the game at 2-2 midway through the second period. With his two point effort, Kindl has registered three goals and six points in his last eight games played.
Justin Abdelkader (goal, assist) and Zetterberg (two assists) also had multi-point nights for the Wings.
“I think he did a good job,” Babcock said of Kindl. “He could have closed tighter on the guy on the first goal against, but he got a goal and an assist. He made an unbelievable pass, he got a big-time goal. You got to give the kid credit. He hasn’t played since (Marek) Zidlicky arrived and he came in and had an impact on the game. Give him credit.”
Kindl has been a good solider for the Wings. The former first-round draft pick missed the previous 10 games as a healthy scratch. He now has five goals and 13 points in 34 games played this season.
“You got to decide whether you’re going to do something with your opportunity or be soft between your ears,” Babcock said. “That’s up to the guy. We’re talking in a positive manner about him right now, so he did a good job.”
Arizona struck first on a fluke goal.
John Moore was credited for scoring the Coyotes’ first goal though it was accidentally pushed into the net off of Zetterberg’s stick at 11:43 of the opening period. Craig Cunningham lined up a shot from the circle that Jimmy Howard (17 saves) stopped as the Wings’ captain and Moore battled in front of the crease. However, as Zetterberg tried to tie up Moore’s stick he inadvertently pushed the puck behind the Wings’ goalie and into the net.
The teams alternated scoring in the second period on goals by Glendening, Mark Arcobello (PPG), Abdelkader and David Moss. However, the Coyotes – despite being out-shot 26-13 through 40 minutes – took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
The Wings got third-period goals by Kindl and Gustav Nyquist, who scored on the power play, to force overtime. But Arcobello scored the game-winner, his second goal of the game, at 3:08 of OT.
“We were chasing the game all night long,” Babcock said. “We gave up two penalty kill goals and yet I thought our penalty kill was outstanding. I didn’t think we gave up anything. We’re going to take a day off; we got three (games) in the next four (days). Get regrouped and get back at ‘er. We got a huge point tonight. The other side was we lost a huge point, but we got a huge point so that’s a positive thing, so let’s build off it.”
Though it is alarming, Babcock said, that the Wings haven’t won consecutive games in the last three weeks.
“There’s always concern, but when I look at our last little bit of games here I like how hard we played,” Babcock said. “We came out, we were organized, we came after them. They scored. We didn’t score as good.”