Detroit Red Wings (mostly) punchless in 3-0 loss to Calgary Flames

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The energy and execution that marked the Detroit Red Wings’ first three games was missing, and for the first time this season they found themselves playing from behind.

The Calgary Flames struck twice in the first period Thursday at Little Caesars Arena en route to a 3-0 final, handing the Wings their first regulation loss of the season.

The Wings (2-1-1) had gotten off to a good start, leading the season opener against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning until late in the third period (then losing in overtime), beating the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night and then playing a crisp, patient game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. But the Wings entered Thursday's third period down a pair of goals to the Flames only to come out flatfooted and get outshot, 10-1. Shots were 13-6 in the third period in favor of the Flames when Alex Nedeljkovic went to the bench with 2:37 to play; Matthew Tkachuk scored an empty-netter within 10 seconds.

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) stops a Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) shot as Danny DeKeyser (65) defends in the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) stops a Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) shot as Danny DeKeyser (65) defends in the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Detroit.

Power play punchless

The Wings' conversions on man advantages in each of the first two games appeared promising, but this week they’ve reverted to old habits. They squandered 94 seconds with two extra skaters Tuesday; Thursday, they were punchless on two power plays in the first period. They struggled to get set up and when they did, they had trouble moving the puck. Lucas Raymond had the puck at one point but lost it in the corner. Pius Suter bumped Adam Erne on Moritz Seider’s unit but the group didn’t muster much. In four minutes of power play time, the Wings didn’t register a shot on net.

Detroit Red Wings left wing Givani Smith (48) and Calgary Flames left wing Milan Lucic (17) fight during first-period action Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena.
Detroit Red Wings left wing Givani Smith (48) and Calgary Flames left wing Milan Lucic (17) fight during first-period action Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 at Little Caesars Arena.

Gloves off Givani

This is a big year for Givani Smith, a second-round pick from 2016. He’s no longer waiver-exempt so the Wings risk losing him if they attempt to send him to the AHL. At 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds, Smith is a bruiser who is at his best playing a north-south game. He dallied with fighting a couple times in the first three games, and dropped the gloves less than three minutes into Thursday’s contest. Smith landed three left hooks before losing his balance against Milan Lucic. Smith drew a penalty in the second period to send the Wings on their first man advantage, but also took a penalty in the period.

So-so start

The Wings played an exceptionally good first period Tuesday, largely moving it well in both zones. Thursday wasn’t nearly as good of a start; though the Wings directed a dozen shots at Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom, there was a lack of quality chances. The Flames took advantage of the Wings disorganization in their own zone to score twice: Elias Lindholm drove towards the net and tapped Johnny Gaudreau’s rebound past Nedeljkovic at 10:06. Andrew Mangiapane scored at 14:33, redirecting Erik Gudbranson’s shot after Dillon Dube got by Filip Hronek.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings punchless in 3-0 loss to Calgary Flames