DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock said it again, “catchup hockey is losing hockey.”
And that’s just what the Wings did all Thursday night and it eventually led to a 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Joe Louis Arena.
“When you start chasing the game like we did anything can happen,” Babcock said. “It’s entertaining for the fans, but it’s not a receipt for success whatsoever.”
Montreal led by two goals three times in the game.
“We weren’t very good in the first period, starting with myself,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We were turning the pucks over all over the ice, we weren’t skating and we weren’t working, but in saying that we were still in the game somehow. We make it 3-3, then they go up 4-3, 5-3 and we score right away again and it’s still a game, but all in all we have to be better than this.”
The loss Detroit’s first in regulation on home ice in the last 13 games.
The Wings are however now 0-2-1 in their last three after winning three in row.
“This is not good enough for sure,” Kronwall said.
“That’s two games in a row that we got behind and it’s unacceptable,” Babcock said. “(Wednesday) I gave them an optional and not many guys went on the ice. It looked like we couldn’t skate at the start of the game. You can bet it won’t be an optional (Friday).”
Tomas Tatar scored twice for Detroit and Jimmy Howard made 24 saves. Johan Franzen and Riley Sheahan also scored.
“We earned a hard W,” said Montreal goalie Carey Price, who stopped 26 shots. “It doesn’t matter if you win 1-0 or 10-9 at this point. It all adds up the same.”
Tomas Plekanec had a pair of goals for the Canadiens, who have won seven of their last eight games. David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Tomas Vanek also scored.
“It’s just tough,” Sheahan said. “It’s not like we were going in there with the mindset of having a slow start, but things weren’t working for us and they came out strong. We just got to regroup and get ready for the weekend.”
With just nine games left in the regular season, the loss was damaging for the Wings to qualify for the playoffs as other than a wild card. They are 11 points behind the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and nine points behind Tampa Bay.
“We know we need these two points and we know we are battling for a playoff spot,” Tatar said. “There are games like this so hopefully we will recover and get ready for the next game.”
Detroit still holds down the final wild card spot with 80 points. Washington and Toronto both have 80 points as well, but the Wings hold the regulation wins tiebreaker.
“We are trying,” Tatar said. “It’s not like we don’t know what’s going on. We just didn’t start the game well. We couldn’t get them. We can’t just hope we will win after one good period so we have to be better. We know we’ve got to start from the get-go. We just have to play better.”
The teams combined for five goals in a wild third period.
The first three goals came in a span of four minutes and 24 seconds to start the third period.
Tatar pulled Detroit back to within a goal on his own, gloving down an attempted clearing pass by Subban at the Canadiens’ blue line and blasting a shot just inside the post to the right of Price.
Then, after some great work by Tomas Jurco down low, Tatar beat Price far side to tie the game.
But just 1:18 later, Pacioretty had a shot glance off the inside of Niklas Kronwall’s skate to beat Howard on a play the Wings were calling for offsides on.
Just past the midway point of the period, Vanek redirected in a shot from the point by Andrei Markov to put Montreal back in front by two goals.
Franzen quickly got one back 21 seconds later, beating Price over his glove.
Franzen had gone nine straight prior without a goal.
In the second, Sheahan cut the Wings’ deficit in half, snapping a wrist shot over Price’s right shoulder just 1:28 into the second period.
Ten minutes later, Montreal had its two-goal advantage back when Desharnais fluttered a shot past Howard, who was screened. Vanek shouldered Niklas Kronwall off the puck before feeding it to Desharnais.
The goal came moments after Detroit had killed off 29 seconds of a 5-on-3 Canadiens’ man advantage due in large part to two huge saves from Howard.
Plekanec and Subban were a one-man wrecking team in the opening period of the game.
Plekanec scored twice off feeds from the Canadiens’ defenseman to put Montreal up 2-0.
The second tally came off a pretty give-and-go pass between the two with both teams playing a man down.