The Detroit Red Wings needed to be able to pad out their single-point lead tonight when they faced the team right behind them, the Calgary Flames. And with a 2-1 lead going into the third period, it seemed like Detroit would take advantage of the situtation.
But a 91-second stretch saw that lead disappear, and for only the second time this season, the Red Wings lost in regulation when leading after two periods, losing 4-2 at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings lost to the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 after leading 2-1 on January 23.
Jarome Iginla and Rene Bourque scored in that stretch, and combined with Daymond Langkow's first period tally and Christopher Higgins' empty-netter, Calgary reclaimed the final playoff position in the Western Conference. To make matters worse, with Nashville's 2-1 win over Atlanta, the Wings are now three points behind Nashville in seventh.
Pavel Datsyuk scored in his third straight game and Tomas Holmstrom picked up his 18th of the season. For Datsyuk, he became the first 20-goal scorer for the Red Wings, coming in the 66th game of the season.
Calgary outshot Detroit 15-4 in the third period as part of that stretch, making this the second straight game where Detroit appeared to completely let off the gas. Jimmy Howard was solid between the pipes, making 28 saves. Miikka Kiprusoff picked up with win while stopping 28 of Detroit's 30 shots.
After a scoreless first period, a bad Detroit clear led to the opening goal. Howard's attempt to clear instead went to Ian White at the blue line. White fired a shot that went wide to the left of Howard, but hit the infamous Joe Louis Arena boards hard and came out to his right onto the stick of Langkow. He fired a shot that seemed to stun Howard and ended up in the back of the net for his 14th of the season.
But after an Nicklas Lidstrom stop of a Iginla breakaway, the Wings would tie it up. Brian Rafalski set up Holmstrom as he crossed the blue line, and Holmstrom quickly found Datsyuk. Datsyuk flicked the puck under Kiprusoff's left arm from 10 feet away and barely across the goal line.
Then, with Calgary a man down on a too-many-men penalty, Detroit had a dominant power play. Lidstrom, facing heavy traffic between him and Kiprusoff, decided to fire it towards the side of the net. Holmstrom saw the shot and positioned his stick to deflect it right in past a sliding Kiprusoff. It was Lidstrom's 18th, with Rafalski getting his second assist of the night.
But Calgary would tie it up in the third. On a Bourque drive, Howard made a good left pad save, but the puck simply rolled out to Iginla camped out to Howard's left. Howard had no chance and Iginla netted his 31st.
Then the Flames would take advantage of a fluke. After a load of pressure, Robyn Regehr put the puck near the net. The puck wound up near Iginla, who softly swatted at it, and the shot deflected off Bourque's ankle and into the net, with Howard seemingly unaware of it.
The Red Wings will host Minnesota on Thursday.
Player of the game: Pavel Datsuyk. He has four goals in the last three games, and looked strong on offense Tuesday night.