Playing from behind has become the norm for the Detroit Red Wings ever since the Christmas break and they will search for a different narrative Friday against the Florida Panthers.
On Dec. 28, Detroit trailed Pittsburgh 4-0 in the first period before rallying for a stirring overtime victory. A day later, the Red Wings watched the Buffalo Sabres score the first five goals as they absorbed a 6-3 defeat.
On New Year’s Eve, Detroit trailed Ottawa 2-0 after the first period but came back to claim a 4-2 win. And then on Wednesday, the Red Wings had no answers after the New Jersey Devils scored two second-period power-play goals on the way to a 5-0 deficit and a 5-1 defeat.
Detroit team captain Dylan Larkin knows that better starts are essential to long-term success.
“That’s just not sustainable, especially on home ice,” Larkin said. “You have to play a full 60 minutes at home. You’ve got the matchups and you are comfortable in the environment. You’ve got to find a way to get a goal.”
Detroit coach Derek Lalonde felt the score on Wednesday was not indicative of how the game was played. Detroit outshot New Jersey 33-27 but Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 32 saves.
“On the whole, that was an incredibly frustrating night in that poor special teams and a great performance by their goalie overshadowed a pretty good 5-on-5 game for us,” Lalonde said. “You have to execute better on special teams, and that’s happened to us a few times this year.”
Red Wings forward Robby Fabbri made his season debut against New Jersey. He tore the ACL in his right knee in March.
“I like Fab’s game,” Lalonde said. “He created some offense with his line, he set up (Oskar Sundqvist) all alone in the slot and our goal came off a turnover he created. We haven’t done much of that this year.”
The Red Wings also absorbed a 5-1 defeat in their first meeting with the Panthers this season. Florida scored four goals in the second period of that Dec. 8 contest.
Florida has gone 4-8-0 since that night. One of the victories came against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, when the Panthers scored two goals late in the second period and held on for a 5-3 victory.
Matthew Tkachuk collected his first hat track since he was traded during the offseason from Calgary.
“I’m shooting the puck more, which is a big thing for myself personally,” Tkachuk said. “Being around the net, obviously that’s something that I pride myself on. I have a whole lot more to give and another level to get to. Hopefully I can pick it up here in the second half.”
The Panthers will need many more big nights from the high-scoring Tkachuk to get back in the playoff chase.
“He’s still a young man,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said of the 25-year-old. “He’s still just coming into it. There’s a whole bunch of the game he’s going to get better and better at. This guy’s a rock star.”
Florida’s contest in Detroit begins a stretch when it will play seven out of eight games on the road.
“They’re all important now the rest of the way,” Florida defenseman Marc Staal said. “We took care of a team we should take care of, and now we get on the road and will try and string some wins together.”
–Field Level Media