DETROIT — We’ve seen this game many times before at the Joe this season:
Detroit takes the early lead, then the opponent ties it up, jumps in front and eventually prevails as the Red Wings fail to convert on their chances.
It happened again Saturday night when the Florida Panthers fell behind before handing the Wings a 2-1 loss. It was the first regulation loss for backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson this season.
“We’re a lot better hockey team than we showed tonight,” a visible upset Nik Kronwall said. “We have to play with a lot more desperation. We have to execute in all situations.
“We had more mistakes tonight than we’ve had in quite a few weeks now. It’s not good enough.”
Kronwall thought that the Wings stopped skating after the first period, that they watched the Panthers skate, skate and skate while they couldn’t muster much of anything.
Leading 1-0 after the first period on a goal by Dan Cleary, the Red Wings were held to just 14 shots the rest of the game and finished with 23. The Panthers fired 37 shots at Gustavsson.
Detroit played Friday night in New Jersey, defeating the Devils 3-1, but Kronwall didn’t see fatigue as a factor in the game against the Panthers.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with the energy.” he said. “I don’t know what it is.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock disagreed with Kronwall.
“I thought it was lack of energy for sure,” Babcock said. “You try to fight through it the best you possibly can. We had a game last night; they sat in our building, hung out and waited for us.
“There’s no excuse for anything. You got to find ways to win games.”
With the loss, the Wings’ home record drops to 5-6-6.
Kronwall thinks that the Wings have to play a simpler game at home, like they do on the road. Detroit is an impressive 10-3-1 away from home.
Again, Babcock didn’t totally agree.
“I thought we tried to play simple today,” Babcock said. “We lacked energy.
“If you want, you can talk about our record at home. That to me is totally different than tonight. We didn’t have energy.”
Injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Darren Helm have slowed the Wings’ attack significantly. It was apparent how much the Wings miss the trio when they had two power-play chances in the third period and looked completely out of synch.
“Just got to execute a little bit better,” Cleary said. “We got a couple of power plays late and we were just missing passes.
“It didn’t look like we had a lot of sense of urgency. “That’s just not Red Wing-like.”
When asked about the Wings’ home record, Cleary shook his head, looked down to the ground and said, “It’s terrible.”
Detroit will play their next two games on the road, against the Panthers on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, before playing host to Pittsburgh on Saturday.