The Detroit Red Wings dropped a 3-2 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final seconds of Sunday night’s game, surrendering a goal to Auston Matthews’ with only 31 seconds remaining in regulation.
It was a disappointing defeat for a Wings team that played a tremendous game against Nashville on Saturday, but could not maintain its work ethic and resolve over the course of 120 minutes of play.
Our friends from Toronto were quite happy to leave Little Caesars Arena with two points, as they told the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan:
With just one goal in his previous five games despite getting scoring opportunities, [Auston] Matthews atoned late in third period at Little Caesars Arena, scoring the winner after taking a pass from William Nylander. Matthews roofed a shot over Wings goalie Petr Mrazek with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, enabling the Leafs to improve to 6-4-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets in 2017-18.
“Me and Willy looked at each other, and it was like, ‘Finally,’” Matthews said. “It was nice to finish it off and be able to win the game. For us, we’re good players. We’re too skilled to create all those opportunities and not be able to capitalize on them. Just happened to be the last couple of seconds of the game.”
Matthews has seven goals in six career games against the Wings. That’s tied for the most goals he has against any team, as he has seven in eight games versus Ottawa. And Matthews now has four game-wining goals against Detroit. He does not have more than one against any other team.
The Leafs, who have a full day off on Monday and start a three-game home stand on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, improved to 17-12-3 on the road and have 77 points overall. They’re one behind the Boston Bruins, who hold second place in the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins have five games in hand.
Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney was strong again, making 27 saves. McElhinney’s record stands at 7-4-0 and he has a save percentage of .932.
“Big Mac had a really good game for us,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock, whose club lost 5-3 in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. “We made some mistakes and he was there to make the saves and did a real good job. When you can have that solid guy giving you confidence and you know you have a chance to win, that’s a real positive.”
The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran also offered a recap sans quotes…
There’s a resiliency to the Maple Leafs this season. And they showed it again Sunday, bouncing back nicely in beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at Little Caesars Arena, a night after dropping a decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Auston Matthews scored the winner with 30.2 seconds left as the Leafs returned to their winning ways. They have won 10 of their last 12 games, and ran their record to 14-7-3 in games following losses.
They could have let this one get away after Henrik Zetterberg scored early in the third to tie, but Matthews was able to pick the corner on Petr Mrazek for the win.
James van Riemsdyk, with his fourth goal in five games, and Mitch Marner, who has nine points in his last five games, also scored for Toronto. Curtis McElhinney won his fourth straight.
Both teams also played Saturday night. And both teams had to travel to Detroit for the game on Sunday, so neither team had an advantage in terms of rest. But one thing the Leafs have done better this year is winning the second of back-to-back games. Last year, they went 6-11-1. They are now 6-4-1 with three more sets to go.
McElhinney — who has started all but one of those second games in two nights — deserves some credit, but so do the regulars, who have matured.
“We’re better,” coach Mike Babcock told reporters in Detroit before the game, the audio posted on the team’s website. “We’ve got better players. We’re older. When you have a better team, you have a better chance.”
As well as some quips and quotes in McGran’s “Breakaway” blog:
EIGHTEEN SECONDS: James van Riemsdyk got his 24th goal to open the scoring at 7:02. He deflected a Jake Gardiner shot. The very next shift, Mitch Marner scored his 14th goal of the season to break the tie. His toe-drag across the crease was a thing of beauty. Marner has nine points (4-5-9) in his past five games and has registered at least one point in eight of his last 10 games (7-5-12).
ON THE LINE: Auston Matthews scored the winner 19:29, picking the corner on Petr Mrazek, for his fourth game winning goal of the season. Matthews ranks second in the NHL in even-strength goals (25).
GOOD TEAMMATE: Curtis McElhinney stopped 27 of 29 shots to earn his seventh victory of the season. He typically plays the second of these back-to-back games. “McElhinney has been real steady,” said Babcock. “We made some mistakes and he was there to do the job. I don’t know how many starts in a row he’s been real solid for us. He’s a solid guy. When you have confidence, it gives you a chance to win.”
The Leafs’ press corps was offended by the fact that Petr Mrazek may or may not have shaken the mask off his head in the second period, negating a goal, as noted by Sportsnet’s Luke Fox…
Hyman was the first player to fire a puck into the net, when he blasted home a Matthews rebound — but his Grade-A scoring opportunity was eradicated due to a quick and mistakenly blown whistle.
Matthews’ initial shot had struck Red Wings goaltender Mrazek in the mask and dislodged a strap. Mrazek quickly shook his mask off, trying to trigger a whistle, and got one — ensuring the first period would remain scoreless.
By the letter of the law, however, play should not have been stopped because the red Wings never had possession. Further, Mrazek could’ve been dealt a two-minute delay-of-game penalty:
NHL Rule 9.6 – Uniforms / Helmets – When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has control of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask. When the opposing team has control of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity. This stoppage of play must be made by the Referee.
When a goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask in order to secure a stoppage of play, the Referee shall stop play as outlined above and in this case assess the goalkeeper a minor penalty for delaying the game.
But that play didn’t ultimately matter in the greater scheme of things, in no small part because the Leafs rallied from a 1-0 deficit in a hurry, as noted by TSN’s Kristen Shilton:
The best motivation the Leafs could hope to find playing on the second night of a back-to-back was their performance from Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto lost that game 5-3, in no small part because of poor defensive play and by not capitalizing on the chances they did earn.
On Sunday in Detroit, it was apparent early that the Leafs’ play in their own end hadn’t immediately improved over the intervening 18 hours – they were often one-and-down in the offensive zone and then lost key battles in their own to allow Detroit to sustain pressure.
When Anthony Mantha opened the scoring on a power play strike in the second period, it marked the second straight night Toronto ceded the first goal of the game, a scenario they hadn’t allowed since Jan. 22-24.
Something about that goal sparked the Leafs’ legs, though. James van Riemsdyk tied the game just 1:11 later, tipping home a Jake Gardiner point blast from his usual office in front of the net.
18 seconds after that, Mitch Marner showed terrific patience with the puck by outwaiting Petr Mrazek and defenceman Xavier Ouellet below the circle before firing a wrister into the mesh. Marner seems less passive in the offensive zone now, calling for pucks and showcasing a more obvious shooter’s mentality than he’s ever displayed as a pro.
The Leafs played better in the third, but Henrik Zetterberg caught them flat-footed in the defensive end to tie the game again halfway through the period.
From there it was anyone’s game, and Kasperi Kapanen tried to make it his with a great individual effort that set up a two-on-one alongside Leo Komarov. The rookie fed Komarov right in front of Mrazek, but his veteran counterpart missed the wide open net entirely with his shot.
The Leafs took over late, as noted by TorontoMapleLeafs.com’s Adam Proteau:
Matthews-Nylander-Hyman line combines to put Toronto ahead with 30 seconds left; Leafs hang on to get back in win column as they head home. The game appeared as if it were heading to overtime, but with 30 seconds left, the line of centre Auston Matthews and winger William Nylander and Zach Hyman all combined to produce the game-winner.
Hyman began the scoring sequence by battling a pair of Detroit defenders deep in the Wings’ zone. He freed up the puck for Nylander, who quickly carried it toward the net to the left of Mrazek, and the puck moved out to Matthews, who was situated to Mrazak’s right. Matthews found a way to score at an extremely tight angle, and his goal was his team-leading 27th goal of the year.
The Associated Press’s recap will serve as our pivot point between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings’ perspectives:
Matthews took William Nylander‘s pass and snapped a high shot into the roof of the net from a sharp angle for his 27th goal of the season, but just his fourth winner.
“I just tried to play Nylander there,” Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek said. “I didn’t see Matthews. It was a nice shot by him. He put it in the top corner.”
Matthews had gone three games without a goal, his longest drought in a month.
“Me and Willie looked at each other and said, `Finally,” Matthews said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh it off and keep going out there and playing the same way. We’re good players. We’re too skilled to create all those opportunities and not capitalize on them. It just happened to be in the last couple of seconds of the game.”
Detroit center Dylan Larkin iced the puck, leading to a faceoff in the Wings end with 37.8 seconds left in the third period.
It was the second time in eight games the Wings had surrendered the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation. Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 7.7 seconds left to give the Panthers a 3-2 verdict over the Wings on Feb. 3.
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill felt his team needed to show more composure in the dying moments.
“I think we can talk to each other and know that we’ve got a little more time there and make a little more poised play,” Blashill said. “We didn’t and then they made a play on the faceoff.”
For the Red Wings, the game was an opportunity to earn 2 points turned into a 0-point game, as they told NHL.com’s Dave Hogg:
“It was a pretty even game, and we had chances to win, but we scored two and let them get three,” Zetterberg said. “It’s frustrating because we played well and didn’t get anything out of it.”
Detroit (24-25-9, 57 points) is seven points behind the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes in the race for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
“We can’t keep giving away points,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “We’ve been better about that in the last few games, but we gave away two more tonight.”
Detroit nearly took the lead at 8:15 of the first period, but Nyquist couldn’t sweep a bouncing puck into the net with McElhinney out of position.
“It’s tough because we had opportunities,” Nyquist said. “We just need to start finishing more chances.”
The Wings spoke with regret to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“[Matthews] had a couple of chances but overall we had done a pretty good job (against Matthews),” Blashill said. “Nylander had a big part of the winning goal, taking the puck to the net. It went off Double-A’s (Andreas Athanasiou’s) stick to him (Matthews) and they were able to score.”Said Anthony Mantha, who scored the Red Wings’ first goal: “It’s a lucky goal there. We had two stick on the puck and they still managed to get it in the net. Things happen that way. They got the lucky bounce in the end.”The Red Wings (24-25-9, 57 points) appeared to be headed toward overtime and at least one crucial point in the standings, but instead got nothing in the tight playoff chase. This latest final-minute defeat is another crushing blow to the Red Wings’ fading playoff chances.“We’re leaving points out there,” Blashill said. “We did a good job in Nashville (Saturday’s 3-1 victory) and against Anaheim (2-1 victory last week), but we’re leaving points out there. When it’s a close game, you want it to go your way and not the other way.”As well as the Red Wings played against Toronto, the bitter way they lost hurt.“It would be better if we would have had at least one point,” Mrazek said. “It’s so hard to talk about how we played. This was an important two points on the line.”
“It’s hard to figure it out right now why they won,” Zetterberg said. “They scored three. We scored two. But we had enough chances to win. They probably felt the same. Thought Petr (Mrazek) was really good in net. It’s frustrating for us as a team when we played a good game in Nashville and then we don’t get anything out of this one, when we played pretty good. But (there’s) a lot of things behind that.”
Asked what that meant, Zetterberg refused to say anything more: “No, no…. Thank you.”
Zetterberg, 37, is one of two players on the Wings to reach the 40-point plateau this season. Zetterberg has eight goals and 32 assists in 58 games.
Dylan Larkin has nine goals and 34 assists for 43 points in 58 games.
Anthony Mantha scored his 20th goal of the season to give the Wings a 1-0 lead at 5:51 of the second period. James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner scored 18 seconds a few minutes later to give the Maple Leafs the lead.
“We were close to get at least one point,” said Mrazek, who finished with 31 saves playing for the second game in a row. “We play hard. We work hard. We try the best that we could. We were close to getting one point.”
Blashill gave his goaltenders a thumbs-up…
“I talked to both goalies coming out of the All-Star break,” Blashill said of Mrazek and veteran Jimmy Howard. “I’m going to play the hot goalie. What constitutes hot? I don’t know. I’ll make those decisions as we move along. I’m happy with where both guys are at, to be honest with you.”
And Blashill issued something of a mission statement for the team going forward:
“We gotta continue to grow as a hockey team, as individuals,” Blashill said. “That’s what our goal is here. We’re trying to grow every day. We’re trying to grow for Tuesday and grow for the future.”
Among DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji’s “Trending” recap’s notes:
Anthony Mantha: Mantha was an incredibly prolific goal scorer in junior hockey, scoring 50 and 57 goals in consecutive seasons for Val d’Or. But it’s much more challenging to score at that pace in the professional ranks. Mantha had 21 goals in 60 games for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins in the 2015-16 season. Mantha probably could have reached 20 goals last season had he not suffered a broken finger fighting Luke Witkowski, then with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Instead he settled for 17 in 60 games. Mantha has led the Wings in goals all season and became the first Wing to hit 20 goals when he deflected Gustav Nyquist‘s shot past Toronto goalie Curtis McElhinney at 5:51 of the second period on the power play. Tomas Tatar got the second assist. Mantha also tied his point total of 36 in his 56th game of the season. Mantha has four goals and two assists in his last six games.
Quotable: “Obviously, it feels good. I don’t want to stop here, that’s for sure. I would rather get the two points tonight than that 20th.” – Mantha
Quotable II: “I think it’s a good step. I think one of the big things, and I’ll talk to him about is he’s scored lots of goals standing in front of the goalie, and I think when you learn to embrace that as a player – I don’t think it was a natural thing for him – they got guy in van Riemsdyk who consistently scores around 30 because he’s real good in front of the net. I think Anthony is hopefully seeing that, just by being in front of the net you can increase your goal totals a ton, so I think it’s a good reinforcement of what that net presence and that spot on the power play means.” – Wings coach Jeff Blashill
Mantha impresses me and maddens me with equal measure–there’s just so much talent and so much inconsistency in him–so here’s hoping that he does hit 30 one day.
Highlights: NHL.com posted a 3:40 highlight clip…
Fox Sports Detroit posted post-game comments from Henrik Zetterberg…
Photos: The Free Press posted a 13-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 10-image gallery;
ESPN posted a 9-image gallery;
Here’s the Game Summary…
And the Event Summary:
The final shot attempts were 60-47 Toronto. Detroit blocked 13 shots.
Red Wings notebooks and also of Red Wings-related note: I didn’t post this as a stand-alone entry because I thought that the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan was milking the situation a bit:
Mrazek’s name has frequently come up in trade discussions the last year, or two, but the timing never seemed quite right.
Maybe, just maybe, that could be changing with the Feb. 26 trade deadline rapidly approaching. Both the Flyers and Flames, specifically, have been hit hard by injuries in the goaltending department.Philadelphia lost Michal Neuvirth (lower body) Sunday, after having already lost Brian Elliott (lower body) to surgery earlier in the week. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was adamant he wouldn’t be shopping for a goaltender after Elliott was hurt, but likely will have to change his mind now that Neuvirth could be out for an extended period.Calgary’s Mike Smith (lower body) is another goalie who could be out for a period of time, and with the Flames desperately in need of points.Mrazek could be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if he isn’t qualified for his $4 million salary — which the Red Wings probably wouldn’t do at this juncture. Mrazek has played his best hockey during the last several weeks, which could interest a team looking to secure a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, speculation persists about the Leafs’ interest in Wings centre Luke Glendening. More specifically, the reference about the Leafs’ interest should pertain to Babcock, who loved Glendening’s diligence and attention to detail when Babcock was coaching the Wings.Babcock wouldn’t mind an upgrade on Dominic Moore, but one would think a trade involving Glendening stops if the Wings insist on getting back, say, a player such as Kasperi Kapanen. Detroit is not going to give away the 28-year-old Glendening, who is under contract through 2020-21 with an annual salary cap hit of $1.8 million US.
Sunday’s starter, Mrazek (RFA), has been available for trade for months, but with his contract nearing expiry and Detroit thinking lottery, he’s getting pushed heavy.
The Detroit Free Press reported this weekend that Mrazek was offered to Philadelphia, after the Flyers lost Brian Elliott to injury, for the price of a third-round pick. Ron Hextall declined, but that was before Philly’s backup, Michal Neuvirth, left Sunday’s victory over the Rangers with a lower-body ailment.
The Flyers are in a playoff spot and could get desperate. Mrazek posted a .912 save percentage in the last-minute loss.
Toronto reportedly has trade interest in Detroit’s fourth-line centre, Luke Glendening, a Babcock favourite during his Wings tenure. Glendening had the worst possession metrics (20 per cent Corsi) of any forward in the game.
The Wings’ most coveted trade chip, right-shot defenceman Mike Green, sat out his second straight game with an upper-body injury and remains day-to-day.