ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Detroit Red Wings are reeling, and their attention to detail is starting to slip.
The Minnesota Wild were focused from start to finish.
Antti Miettinen got Minnesota going with a pair of first-period goals, and Detroit’s defence fell apart down the stretch in the Wild’s 5-2 victory over the Red Wings on Wednesday night.
Josh Harding made the early scores hold up with 26 saves for Minnesota, which improved to 6-0-1 in its last seven home games. Detroit’s 4-3 shootout victory last week is the only blemish.
For the Red Wings, proud owners of those four Stanley Cup championships in the past 12 seasons, that was their only win in the last seven games. They’re 1-3-3 in that stretch, with five blown third-period leads.
This, to coach Mike Babock, was another unacceptable performance.
“We gave up two power-play goals. We haven’t given up power-play goals like that since our trip to Europe in September or whenever that was,” Babock said.
Miettinen, who has 15 goals this season, had his third two-goal game in his last seven games. He’s finding his stride again with linemates Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette.
“Now that we’re moving, things are opening up,” Miettinen said.
Pavel Datsyuk had two goals in the first period himself for the Red Wings, who have found themselves in a real fight for a playoff spot for the first time in years. They’re tied with Calgary for eighth place in the Western Conference, with the Wild three points behind them in 11th.
Both of Minnesota’s goalies have been bothered by injuries, and Harding got the game-time assignment ahead of slumping All-Star Niklas Backstrom (back), who has given up at least three goals in eight of his last 11 starts. Harding was actually hurt in the first period of last week’s game against the Red Wings.
Harding, who has made 39 of his 54 career starts on the road, won at home for the first time in more than two years.
The Wild were up 3-2 less than 18 minutes into the game and still had that lead early in the third period when the Red Wings started a power play.
Dan Cleary’s high-stick penalty ended the advantage after 44 seconds, and Eric Belanger deked Todd Bertuzzi on his way to feed Guillaume Latendresse for the 4-on-4 goal.
Then with 13 seconds remaining on the Wild power play, Martin Havlat sneaked a bad-angle shot past goalie Chris Osgood to give the home team a three-goal lead.
“Yeah, we didn’t play great, but if I can get in there and steal a game, maybe that could start something,” Osgood said. “It didn’t happen, so I’ve got to put my head to the grindstone and keep working hard.”
Osgood is 1-6 in seven starts since Nov. 7, losing three straight while giving up 11 goals. He made 20 saves in this game.
“We’re confident in the group we have. It’s a matter of digging down and getting these wins and playing a lot better in our own zone,” said captain Niklas Lidstrom. “I don’t think we helped Ossie out at all.”
Jimmy Howard was in goal for Detroit the night before in Phoenix, when the Coyotes scored twice in the final two minutes to tie it and then won in a shootout.
The Red Wings, beset by injuries this season and looking to their younger players for production more than usual as they try to stay in the thick of the playoff chase, have had trouble finding a finishing touch.
This time, the lapse came early and late. The Wild had six on-target shots in the first period, and three of them went in.
Brunette set up Miettinen on the first two, feeding his linemate from the goal line for a power-play snap shot and then muscling the puck out from behind the net as he does best to set Miettinen up for a bad-angle try that eluded Osgood.
Datsyuk answered for Detroit both times, in less than two minutes following the first goal and in 27 seconds after the next one. But the Wild regained their edge just 36 seconds later when defenceman Greg Zanon let a slap shot fly from the blue line that Andrew Ebbett was able to redirect through traffic for the goal.
“It’s been the case of finding a way to lose instead of finding a way to win,” Lidstrom said, adding: “It feels like we’re right there, but we can’t get over that hump to get those two points.”
NOTES: The latest to land on the injured list for Detroit was D Brad Stuart, who sprained his left shoulder and will be re-evaluated on Thursday. … Latendresse (16) and Miettinen (15) each matched their career high in goals.