Detroit Red Wings uncharacteristically sloppy in 5-1 loss to Panthers in Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. — Alex Nedeljkovic's attempt to regain his footing stumbled, and so did the Detroit Red Wings.

The execution and energy that sparked the previous performance wasn't there when the puck dropped Thursday at FLA Live Arena, and that tarnished what had been a good trip. A two-game winning streak came to an end as the Florida Panthers ran over the Wings, 5-1.

It was Nedeljkovic's first start since he allowed four goals in regulation in a shootout loss on Nov. 30; he also gave up for in his previous start before that, on Nov. 12. He was good the first 15 minutes against the Panthers, but once one went in, another soon followed. His teammates didn't look sharp, either, leading to a 35-15 disparity in shot after two periods.

Chris Tierney (71) of the Florida Panthers scores a first period goal past goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) of the Detroit Red Wings at the FLA Live Arena on December 8, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida.
Chris Tierney (71) of the Florida Panthers scores a first period goal past goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) of the Detroit Red Wings at the FLA Live Arena on December 8, 2022 in Sunrise, Florida.

The Wings (13–8–5) finish the trip Saturday at the Dallas Stars.

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Different looks

Nedeljkovic was just one of the changes from the lineup that had won the previous two games. Defenseman Olli Määttä, who plays on the second pairing opposite Filp Hronek, missed the game because of illness and Jake Walman was scratched. That led to Gustav Lindstrom and Robert Hagg back in on the third pairing. They weren't the problem (although Hagg took an early penalty) but it wasn't a good first period for the Wings. Nedeljkovic faced 15 shots, and gave up a goal to fourth-line center Chris Tierney when he was sprung for a breakaway by former Wings defenseman Marc Staal, who took advantage of a bad bounce in the neutral zone that cost the Wings possession.

Falling behind

The Wings registered just five shots on net in the first period. They didn't help themselves when they let Aleksander Barkov have time and space to maneuver through the slot area and fire a shot that Eetu Lustarinen got a piece of. Less than a minute later, third-pair defenseman Josh Mahura scored on Sam Bennett's rebound. Not to be left behind, the Panthers' other third-pair defenseman, Matt Kiersted followed up at 14:52. He and Tierney both got their first goals of the season Thursday. Matthew Tkachuk piled on at 15:37, toe-dragging the puck past Michael Rasmussen and firing a shot that went bar down. Barkov was involved in another offensive opportunity when he was part of rush during a Wings power play.

Berggren a bright spot

Rookie Jonatan Berggren has been such a positive since he was called up Nov. 10, and put on another performance in his 13th game. He drew a tripping penalty on Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling at 6:09, and scored at 8:09, just as the power expired. Lucas Raymond fired the puck on net from the left circle, and Andrew Copp tried to redirect it. It was Berggren who got to the loose puck, knocking it into an open net from just outside the crease. That was Berggren's fourth goal and ninth point of the season.

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 latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” 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 uncharacteristically sloppy in 5-1 loss at Panthers