A flat, inexcusable second period Thursday at American Airlines Center made a good start moot, and left the Wings to rue a 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.
The Wings used a two-man power play to convert on the road for the first time since Oct. 19, with Gustav Nyquist scoring his first power-play goal of the season and fifth goal overall. Nyquist, who came into the game with no points his prior seven games, also set up Henrik Zetterberg in the first period.
Petr Mrazek didn’t get much help from teammates, victimized by failed clears and deflections.
A three-goal second period left the Wings trailing by two going into the third period. They opened with bite, getting into Dallas’ zone with far more regularity. Tomas Tatar lifted a shot that Antti Niemi deflected with his blocker. Anthony Mantha tried a backhand from just outside the right post. Andreas Athanasiou missed on a glorious rebound with about 5 minutes left in regulation.
The Wings earned a fifth power play, but couldn’t build on their earlier success with the man advantage. Mrazek was pulled with 3:28 to go, but Niemi did not relent. Patrick Eaves scored into the empty net at 18:54. The Wings outshot the Stars, 33-21.
Detroit fell behind before the game was 4 minutes old when Steve Ott missed clearing the puck out of Detroit’s zone, leading to Jordie Benn firing a shot from the blue line that Lauri Korpikoski tipped for a 1-0 lead.
The Wings then had the good fortune of getting four straight power plays against the second-worst penalty kill in the NHL. On the first, Niemi denied a backhand attempt by Frans Nielsen. On the second, Niemi stymied a tip-in by Nyquist. Then came power plays numbers three and four, overlapping by 1:53 thanks to Radek Faksa high-sticking Dylan Larkin after a too-many-men call.
Had the Wings not converted there, they could have mopped the hallway with their confidence. But after a minute, Vanek found Nyquist down low, and Nyquist tipped the puck for his first goal in 22 games, second in 36 games.
The Wings grabbed the lead within 2 minutes, when Zetterberg finished a behind-the-net feed from Nyquist. Shots after the first period were 11-4 to the Wings.
The penalty killers came through when tested early in the second period, but Brett Ritchie tied it shortly after when he deflected Faksa’s slap shot.
The Stars turned that momentum into several dominating shifts, pinning the Wings in their own zone and testing Mrazek by crashing the net. Their efforts paid off at 15:43, when John Klingberg scored another net-front goal, deflecting Devin Shore’s shot, and Stephen Johns got it to 4-2 when his shot deflected in off Jonathan Ericsson’s stick at 16:42. It was a bad period for the Wings in every respect but the PK, as they spent entirely too much time in their own zone.