Alex Lyon returned to form in the Red Wings shootout loss to Florida

Guess who's back? Alex Lyon made 36 saves in Detroit's 3-2 shootout loss to the high-powered Panthers on Saturday afternoon.

Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

Every game of late has been the most important game for the Detroit Red Wings over the past eight years, with a playoff berth still within reach despite a disastrous stretch of hockey over the past month where they've gone 3-9-2. Saturday afternoon, the Red Wings squared off with the Florida Panthers in what was yet another must-win situation, although the odds of doing so were firmly against them. It's challenging to qualify for the postseason when you have two horrible months like Detroit has had this season in December and March, but they're still knocking on the door.

The Detroit Red Wings did receive good news before the puck dropped, though. Star forward Patrick Kane who had missed the past couple of games while he was battling the flu was able to return to the lineup. Also, fourth line center Austin Czarnik was also all systems go as he was also battling an illness. The one significant clog in the machine that was still unable to go had been defenseman Jake Walman who remains out with a lower-body injury.

Unfortunately, the Red Wings failed to avoid more bad luck as captain Dylan Larkin suffered a knee injury on the game's first shift. The play was a fluke and very unfortunate, as a Jeff Petry point shot was redirected and struck Larkin right in the side/back of the knee. Larkin tangled up a bit with a Panthers player and immediately went down to the ice, reeling in pain. Larkin needed assistance off the ice as he could not put any weight on his left leg.

After disappearing for a while, Larkin tried to take a shift on Detroit's first power play, but shortly after it began, he returned to the bench in what looked to be a considerable amount of pain. Robby Fabbri would put the Red Wings on the board first with a power-play goal after some excellent puck movement. Christian Fischer was shown giving Larkin a big celebratory hug on the Red Wings bench. Larkin wouldn't reappear until the start of the second period and didn't look any worse for wear, which is a great sign for Detroit.

The Detroit Red Wings fall 3-2 to the Florida Panthers in a shootout.

Here is some more good news. I don't know if it was because he was starting against his former team, which can give a player some extra juice, but Alex Lyon looked like he's returned to form. Lyon made 36 saves, and countless were elite-level saves while the Red Wings were clinging to a one-goal lead; his best came on 51-goal scorer Sam Reinhart at point-blank range. Lyon also made an extraordinary save on Matthew Tkachuk alone in the slot after a horrible Shayne Gostisbehere turnover. Gostisbehere slid a weak backhand pass toward the middle of the ice intended for Andrew Copp rather than going up the boards or using the glass.

As the Panthers so often do, especially when trailing, they quickly became very physical after the whistle in the third period. Part of which is designed to wear down their opponent, but they also look to intimidate you with their after-the-whistle antics led by their captain, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk leveled Lucas Raymond with a cross-check to the back after the whistle, grabbed him by the jersey collar, and continued to shake him as the lineman came to Raymond's aid. While that was going on, Aaron Ekblad had J.T. Compher in a headlock behind the Florida goal. Moments later, Ekblad forgot he was in the NHL and completed a UFC takedown on the much smaller Alex DeBrincat with a linesman in between them.

The Panthers tied and took a 2-1 lead late in the third period thanks to captain Aleksander Barkov, who recorded both goals, but the Red Wings wouldn't go away. Larkin struck on the power play with a one-timer that beat Sergei Bobrovsky from the right circle on a gorgeous feed from Kane. Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on both of Detroit's power play markers.

Despite playing with a lot more effort and enthusiasm on Saturday afternoon, the Red Wings still have plenty to clean up on their backend. Not only was the Gostisbehere turnover nearly devastating, Jeff Petry had a shift for the ages, check it out. You can't make this stuff up.

Next up for the Detroit Red Wings is a date in Tampa Bay on Monday night to conclude the difficult five-game road trip. Before the start of this trip, I mentioned that if Detroit could find a way to earn five points on this trip, it would be a success, understanding the hefty competition they'd face. If the Red Wings beat the Lightning on Monday, they'll return home with four points on the trip, having won just one of five; it's not ideal, but all things considered, it wouldn't be the end of the world, either.

With Detroit picking up a point Saturday, the Red Wings trail Washington by just one point in the wild card race. The Capitals will play the Boston Bruins later this evening. This is something to monitor as you're going about your business tonight.