The Red Wings’ Daniel Cleary, left, reacts after getting hit with the puck in front of Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who made 39 saves to help spoil Detroit’s home opener Tuesday night.
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DETROIT — So much for the warm welcome back to Joe Louis Arena.
On a night in which the Detroit Red Wings kicked off their home schedule — hours after bidding farewell to veteran forward Tomas Holmstrom — little fared well for the Red Wings in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Detroit's power play sputtered, and it managed only seven shots on goal in the second period. But even after outshooting Dallas 20-6 in the third, the Red Wings had to break through Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Lehtonen was nearly impenetrable until the final seconds, when Red Wings rookie Damien Brunner scored his first NHL goal with 3.4 seconds left.
But Brunner's goal, in the end, was merely lip service, as the Red Wings were unable to create much in the way of offense until the game’s final 10 minutes.
“It was fairly easy, the first 50 minutes, I would say,” said Lehtonen, who finished with 40 saves. “Then Detroit came in harder, though it was nice to have that two-goal lead at the time. It made it more calm for the whole team. But this place is not easy to come to, to get wins.”
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard nearly matched Lehtonen save for save, giving up goals to Dallas' Michael Ryder less than six minutes into the first and six minutes into the third.
“It's coming, it definitely is,” Howard said of his sharpness in goal. “Each day, each period, I've felt more and more comfortable out there. I'm starting to slow down, and I'm starting to read plays instead of just reacting.
“But [Lehtonen], he was excellent.”
Furthermore, despite Howard's 32 saves, the Red Wings finished 0 for 4 on the power play, with only four man-advantage shots against the Stars, including two from Johan Franzen.
The Red Wings have scored just five goals in their first three games, with four coming Saturday in a shootout win at Columbus.
“If you don't shoot it, you don't get it back, and if you don't crash the net, you're never scoring on the power play,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose team is 0 for 15 in its first three games on the power play. “We'll get that fixed.”
Ryder gave the Stars a 1-0 lead less than six minutes into the game on a wrist shot from the right circle that sailed above Howard's right shoulder.
The Red Wings killed off nearly four minutes of penalties at the start of the second period, following overlapping tripping calls against Brunner and Valtteri Filppula at 2 minutes, 36 seconds and 4:31 — then went on power play at 6:56 when Vernon Fiddler was called for hooking.
With 6:33 left in the second, Howard made a point-blank save on a spinning Tom Wandell to keep it a one-goal game and, seconds later, Derek Roy's backhanded shot skidded past Howard's glove side and wide of the net.
On its third power play of the game, the Red Wings couldn't muster much on the man-advantage and gave up the fourth shorthanded shot to the Stars, which resulted in Howard's one-on-one stop on Trevor Daley with 4:17 left in the second.
The Stars outshot the Red Wings 16-7 in the second and Lehtonen stopped two early shots by Henrik Zetterberg and Brunner less than a minute into third, but Ryder scored his second goal of the game less than five minutes later, one-timing on a pass from Ray Whitney that gave Dallas a 2-0 lead.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.