PHILADELPHIA – There’s nothing worth remembering about the Red Wings performance Saturday afternoon as they lost for the fourth time in two weeks.
“Disappointing. That’s a good word,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It’s too many games now where the opposing team is faster, stronger from the start. We’ve talked about it. We’ve addressed it after games but you can’t just talk about it. You’ve got to go out and show it. Enough is enough.”
The Wings have struggled ever since returning home from a six-game road trip against Western Conference opponents. But against the Philadelphia Flyers – a team that is all but out of postseason contention – the Wings were at their absolute worst.
“You’ve got to hit rock bottom before you can turn it around. Hopefully we did that,” Zetterberg said after the Wings’ 7-2 loss at Wells Fargo Center.
It’s the first time the Wings have given up seven goals in a game since dropping a 7-1 decision to Chicago on March 31, 2013.
Another lackadaisical start led to the Wings falling behind by two goals early. They were out-shot 15-3 in a period dominated by the Flyers. At one point, Detroit endured a 9 ½-minute stretch without putting a single shot on goal.
However, in the second period, Detroit controlled much of the tempo, cutting its deficit in half when Justin Abdelkader scored his 19th of the season at 4:14 on a pretty set-up through the neutral zone by Zetterberg. It’s the first time since his rookie season with AHL Grand Rapids (2008-09) that Abdelkader has produced this much offense.
Late in the second, the Flyers regained their two-goal lead when Brayden Schenn scored Philadelphia’s second power-play goal of the afternoon.
“I thought we took over in the second period and really had it going,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We got short-handed and then bang! Right away, it’s 3-1. I really thought we were in a great situation. It was 2-1, we were dominating play. We were taking over the game, but obviously didn’t have enough stick-to-itness, enough to get it done and there’s no question our penalty kill hurt us today. Then after that, we came unraveled. We just gave them goals.”
Once a strength for the Wings this season, the penalty kill has suffered a setback recently, allowing at least one power-play goal in each of the past nine games, including three on Saturday.
“Our penalty kill was our greatest strength at one time this year and right now, I thought today we were paralyzed,” Babcock said. “We tried to take some seams away and then just stood there, weren’t aggressive.”
From there, the Flyers continued to turn up the heat on goalie Jimmy Howard, who faced 36 shots, including 15 each in the first and third periods.
“In fairness to our goaltender had nothing to do with it,” Babcock said. “We gave them four goals that were basically tap-ins, freebies. So we weren’t good enough. All we got to do is take a look at ourselves. No sense looking at anyone else but ourselves. We haven’t been good enough. You come off it a little bit in this league and you can’t win. I think that’s evident. If this isn’t an exclamation mark, I don’t know what is. We get a chance in 20 hours to bounce back.”
The Red Wings are now 2-4-0 in March. They have another matinee game scheduled for Sunday in Pittsburgh, against the Penguins, who lost 2-0 to Boston on Saturday. The Bruins, who are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games, have 82 points, and are just three points back of the Wings, who are in third place of the Atlantic Division.
The Wings’ swoon isn’t coming at the most ideal time of the season with the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs less than five weeks away.
“I’d rather have it now than having it in four weeks, but in the same way, if we want to play in four weeks we’ve got to make some changes,” Zetterberg said. “I think we know that we can play better. We’ve just got to do it. It starts with someone doing it and then it will just carry on.”
The loss also represents an ominous streak that started 17 years ago. Detroit has now lost 10 straight games in Philadelphia, getting out-scored in that span, 44-17, dating back to March 14, 1998.
Adding insult to injury, Babcock is 0-6 in NHL games he’s coached in Philadelphia for the Wings and Anaheim.
Trailing by four goals in the third, forward Erik Cole made it 5-2 when he scored for the first time since joining the Red Wings at the trade deadline two weeks ago.
In the end, Saturday’s game was a rock-bottom effort, sounding the alarms for the Wings’ captain, who didn’t offer a quick answer to the team’s recent woes.
“If I knew what happened we probably would change it,” Zetterberg said. “Obviously in the season you will go through stretches where it’s not good. It’s got to be better than this. When you go through tough stretches, at least you can do the right things. Maybe you don’t have your legs and your energy all the time, but you’ve got to be able to make a five-foot pass to a teammate. We’re not doing that right now.”