Wings miss Tomas Tatar in loss to Blues
St. Louis — On the first night of life without Tomas Tatar, well, the Red Wings could have used his offensive ability.
Tatar obviously had the ability to score some goals and the Red Wings desperately needed that Wednesday in a 2-1 to the St. Louis Blues.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard was really good, stopping 24 shots and keeping the Red Wings close, but the lone goal was Andreas Athanasiou’s 13th, at 18 minutes 15 seconds of the third.
St. Louis forward Scottie Upshall scored at 1:12 of the second period, poking a loose rebound past Howard, and Alex Pietrangelo gave the Blues some cushion with his 11th goal at 14:37 of the third period with a blast from the dot, all the offense the equally goals-starved Blues needed.
Blues goalie Carter Hutton stopped 35 shots, maybe the biggest being stopping Henrik Zetterberg on a rebound attempt with just under seven minutes left in regulation time, preserving the 1-0 lead at the time, and the Red Wings swarming.
The loss ended a modest two-game winning streak for the Red Wings (26-27-10, 62 points), who are seven points behind Columbus — eight to pass the Blue Jackets — for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
With only 19 games left for the Red Wings, time is ticking away. What makes the task even more difficult is the schedule isn’t their friend. They’re in the midst of a stretch of having 10 of 11 games on the road, and have only seven home games left on the schedule.
They visit two the better teams in the West, Winnipeg (Friday) and Minnesota (Sunday) this weekend, before facing red-hot Boston on Tuesday.
The Red Wings probably had reason for optimism headed into this one given the state of the Blues. Near the top of the West earlier this season, they entered Thursday with an ugly seven-game losing streak, including an embarrassing 8-3 loss in Minnesota the night before.
But the Blues (35-26-4, 74 points) ended that misery with a stout, defensive gem.
BOX SCORE: Blues 2, Red Wings 1
The Red Wings talked wearily of the Blues after Thursday’s morning skate, knowing the Blues were much, much better than what they’ve shown recently.
“They’re a good team, they’re fighting to get into the playoffs,” defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “They’re a few points out right now (two entering Thursday). We’e know they’re going to be coming out hard, especially after last night’s game (the loss in Minnesota).”
Coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t as concerned about the Blues’ struggles as much as he was keeping his own team focused on its path.
“I’m not really focused on them, but the biggest thing is making sure we come in battle-ready in that first period and ready to compete like crazy,” Blashill said. “We can’t feel our way into the game. We have to make sure we’re ready to compete right away.”
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For the most part, they were.
The Red Wings out-shot St. Louis, 15-8, after one period, with neither team capitalizing on its lone power play opportunity.
The Blues gradually assumed control in the second period, with Upshall’s goal the turning point.
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko drove to the net, his shot stopped by Howard, but the puck lay directly in front of the crease where Upshall poked it past Howard for his 7th goal.
The Red Wings had the lone power play opportunity in the period, but struggled to generate much of an attack.