The Detroit Red Wings found their Original Six pride and found the net, and a Saturday night beating became a Saturday night thriller.
Overmatched by the Toronto Maple Leafs for 40 minutes, the Wings whittled a five-goal deficit down to one, but couldn’t sustain the momentum through a breathless third period that saw the teams combine for eight goals in the third period before the buzzer sounded on a 10-7 victory for the Leafs.
The Wings (23-24-6) showed mettle in refusing to give up, even as they faced one of the elite teams in the NHL, but lost for the second straight time at home.
Fans at Little Caesars Arena went nuts as Filip Hronek, Carter Rowney, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen scored over a 5:21 span in the third period. By that time, Alex Nedeljkov was back in the net he’d left midway through the first period. Both teams went through both of their goalies but the Wings put Alex Nedeljkovic back in net to start the third period, after he’d been replaced by Thomas Greiss midway through the first period. Ex-Wing Petr Mrazek replaced Jack Campbell (Port Huron) and gave up Lucas Raymond’s second goal of the game, which made it 8-7. Ilya Mikheyev and Ondrej Kase (shorthanded) kept the Leafs ahead, and Mitch Marner added his fourth goal and sixth point on a night none of the goaltenders want to remember.
Auston Matthews won the opening draw, setting a tone that left the Wings trailing by a pair of goals. Michael Nylander ripped a slap shot from the right circle that sank behind Nedeljkovic. That was just short of four minutes into the game. A couple minutes passed, and it was 2-0. Martin Holl beat Moritz Seider to the puck behind Detroit’s net and made a behind-the-back pass that sent the puck out front, where rookie Michael Bunting eluded Nick Leddy and tapped the puck in for his 18th goal. The Leafs had six shots on net before the Wings had one.
The Wings seemed to gain a bit of momentum midway through the first period. Dylan Larkin won a faceoff and the puck went back to Filip Hronek, who slid it along the blue line to Marc Staal. Staal wound up and sent the puck on net, with Campbell making an easy save. The puck bounced into the slot, where Raymond was surrounded by four Leafs but was able to get to the puck and fire a shot that went blocker-side. It took less than a minute for the Leafs to quash that momentum, though, as David Kampf scored when he tipped Mikheyev’s shot while battling Hronek in front of Detroit’s net.
The Leafs’ top line made a mockery of the Wings in the first half of the second period. Mitch Marner scored 33 seconds in, again at 4:13, and a third at 9:19, prompting handfuls of Leafs fan to acknowledge his natural hat trick by throwing their caps on the ice. Matthews and Bunting assisted on all three goals. Matthews scored his 37th goal with 1:22 to play in the period.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.