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Youngsters not distracted by bright lights

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar stands up on the Red Wings' bench after he was struck in the forehead by Brian Campbell's stick late in the third period Sunday. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – The young line of Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar was a bright spot in Detroit’s 5-4 shootout loss to Florida Sunday night, as the trio – all under 24 years of age – accounted for five of the Red Wings’ 11 points.

“We got some chemistry going,” Sheahan said. “We’ve been playing with each other for the last little bit now and we played a little bit with each other in (Grand Rapids). Kind of got to know each other on the ice and it’s been working.”

Tatar and Sheahan both recorded multi-points, as each notched a goal and an assist in the loss. Sheahan’s goal marked the second consecutive game in which he found the back of the net, bumping his point total to eight through 12 games with the Red Wings this season.

“We have lots of energy and I think we playing good right now and we have to keep playing better and better and hopefully those guys can stay here as long as they can,” Tatar said. “And I think so far they prove that they belong, or they’ve won, they will be in the NHL so just the whole line have to play good and try help the team to win every game.”

Although forward Johan Franzen became the fourth player to return from injury in the past six days when he joined Detroit’s lineup Sunday, the Wings’ injury woes continued, as Henrik Zetterberg was a late scratch with a back injury. Franzen skated in the captain’s place, centering a line with Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist.

The Wings are now 1-3-0 this season when both Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury) and Zetterberg have been out of the lineup.

“Yeah, he’s been having back issues, we knew that," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You come to the rink hopeful he’s going to play. Because we didn’t have morning skate we didn’t know. Then we got the news and went from there. We would have liked Franzen not to play in the middle his first game back. When you’re a winger and you got go in the middle it’s great when you’ve played and you got tempo and you’re in the kind of game shape you want to be. But that’s part of life.”

Trailing 1-0 after the first period, Nyquist, Daniel Alfredsson and Sheahan scored in the second to give Detroit a two-goal lead. Nyquist’s goal was his fourth in the past four games, extending his point streak to five games, while Alfredsson’s goal in his second game back from injury marked his 60th point in 62 career games against Florida.

“The first period I didn’t think we were very emotionally engaged but we were fine,” Babcock said. “I thought we played a good second and I thought we did lots of good things in the third. The bottom line is we didn’t keep the puck out of our net.”

The Red Wings held two different two-goal leads in the third, but the Panthers rallied to score three goals in the final 11 minutes of regulation, including Brad Boyes’ shorthanded tally which forced overtime and an eventual shootout at The Joe.

Florida only needed one goal from Nick Bjugstad to seal the victory in the shootout, as Tatar, Alfredsson and Patrick Eaves failed to convert for Detroit.

“The positive thing was we had young guys that were outstanding,” Babcock said. “We did lots of good things. I believe Florida is underrated, they got lots of depth up front, they move the puck on the back and they got good goaltending. Would I like to get two points today? For sure. When you’re up 3-1, should you win? Yup. When you’re up 4-2 should you win? Absolutely. We didn’t.”

Despite the loss, the Wings finished their five-game home stand with a 3-1-1 record, earning seven of a possible 10 points. Sunday’s matchup also marked the third consecutive game the team has scored four goals, a positive sign for a young roster that has struggled to score throughout the second half of the season.

“I think there's a lot of good things in this game,” goaltender Jonas Gustavsson said. “We scored four goals, which is a good job, too. I think we worked hard and had a really good second period. There's probably plenty of things that are really good and probably some things we can change, so that's what we've got to do tomorrow, just learn from everything, good and bad, and go on.”

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