The Detroit Red Wings split a weekend double-header during a crucial point in their season. Saturday’s contest saw the team take on Henrik Lundqvist (in his first game back) and the New York Rangers while they faced the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs on a rare Sunday night game.
The Red Wings controlled play in the first period, outshooting the Rangers 15-7, but instead of heading into the first intermission tied at zero, Derek Stepan scored with 49 seconds remaining. Stepan picked up a rebound as goalie Petr Mrazek was out of position having made a prior save. Defenseman Mike Green rushed to block the shot but couldn’t get there quick enough and Stepan found the empty net.
After a scoreless middle frame, Darren Helm led off the scoring in the third, assisted by Luke Glendening and Danny DeKeyser. Helm had a great scoring chance in the first, being robbed by Lundqvist after a strong snap shot.
The game would remain tied until late in the final stanza when Keith Yandle fired a power play slap shot which would be deflected upward by Chris Kreider.
However, with 31.8 seconds left in regulation and Mrazek on the bench, Henrik Zetterberg’s shot rebounded to the stick of veteran Brad Richards, who quickly snapped it past Lundqvist to force overtime.
Helm would strike again 3:03 into 3-on-3 as he deflected in a Pavel Datsyuk wrist shot.
That would seal the 3-2 come-from-behind victory.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall was injured in the contest, and will miss 1-3 weeks with a knee injury.
Detroit had 11 giveaways in the matinee, while the Blueshirts had only three.
The Wings dominated the faceoff circle, winning 66% of all draws.
Shots were 43-25 in favor of Detroit.
It was Helm’s third multi-goal game of the season despite a scoreless October and November.
Detroit attempted to add a third consecutive win to their small victory streak. On paper the Mike Babcock-led squad did not seem like much of a challenge. Sitting at the bottom of the standings league-wide, the youngsters called up at the trade deadline are playing to prove their skill to Leafs management rather than to advance the team in the standings (they are lined up to land Austen Matthews in this summer’s draft with the highest percentage chance). But a team with nothing to lose is nothing to take for granted.
And play spoiler they did, preventing their coach’s former team from securing what should have been an easy two points. Babcock earned his first win against Detroit since signing a lucrative contract in the off-season.
Detroit began the night with a three point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers, who are also competing for a wild card spot.
The situation room played a big role all night, factoring into two calls. First the Maple Leafs had a goal denied as Ben Smith redirected the puck with his shoulder into the net.
Next it was Luke Glendening whom had a goal disallowed after he knocked the puck in with his glove.
With 29.5 seconds left in the second period, P.A. Parenteau lofted the puck down the ice to Michael Grabner who found himself a breakaway. Detroit defenseman DeKeyser caught up but tripped him up on the play. The referee signaled for a penalty shot, but a video review showed that the puck crossed the goal line before a sliding Grabner pushed the net off its pegs.
Veteran forward Pavel Datsyuk left briefly with upper-body injury but did return later in the game.
It was only the second time all season in which Detroit was shut out.
The Red Wings have recorded 30+ shots in every game since February 27.
A Look Ahead
With 13 games remaining in the regular season, Detroit has seven contests against teams currently out of playoff contention (including two games against the Flyers). Eight of those games take place away from Joe Louis Arena.
The next stretch of games is comprised of a four-game road trip that spans the Tuesday-Saturday period.
Detroit sits fourth in the Atlantic Division with 79 points, six points behind both Florida and Tampa Bay. The Flyers have two games-in-hand on the Wings with only a three-point deficit. They have also won seven of their past ten contests.
The Pittsburgh Penguins regained the first wild card position (80 points) with a 5-3 win over the Rangers Sunday.