Detroit — If you fought through the traffic and got to Little Caesars Arena Saturday, you were entertained.
It took a while, but you got your money’s worth as the Red Wings put forth a furious rally only to lose 10-7.
That’s right, 10-7. A total of 17 goals, eight in the third period alone. But the Wings, who trailed 7-2 after two periods, couldn’t pull off the incredible rally.
“I’m sure it was exciting for the fans, and the building was loud,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “All I’m thinking about the fact this isn’t good enough. It’s fool’s gold and that’s not good enough. Our guys know, I hope our guys know, that what happened out there wasn’t good enough.”
The first two periods were mostly a debacle for the Wings, who were outplayed by the Leafs in nearly every facet. There was a layer of boos serenading the Wings after the second period, and it was deserved.
But the Wings scored four goals in a span of 4:46 early in the third period, cutting the Leafs lead to 7-6 and setting the LCA crowd into an uproar.
Toronto’s Ilya Mikheyev restored a two-goal Leafs lead, but Lucas Raymond scored his second goal, cutting the lead to 8-7 at 7:45.
But Toronto’s Ondrej Kase’s short-handed goal at 10:33 gave the Leafs a 9-7 lead and Mitch Marner scored his fourth goal of the game to make it 10-7.
The comeback was nice. The Wings didn’t let the stench of the first 40 minutes overwhelm them, and did something about it. But they allowed 10 goals and largely didn’t deserve to win.
“We had a good push in the third, and you don’t want to roll over and just give it to them” defenseman Marc Staal said. “I’m happy with the way we responded. But disappointed in our first and second periods. It was embarrassing. We had no pulse and we didn’t deserve to win.”
Blashill saw hints of this coming after a lackluster Friday practice.
“I didn’t like our vibe in practice,” Blashill said. “I told the guys, I warned them, you can’t turn the switch on, and I didn’t love the vibe in practice and it manifested itself here tonight. I was hoping I was wrong but I was right and what you do every day is what you are. We better come and embrace practice more if we expect to win games.”
Blashill was pleased with the intensity, emotion and comeback in the third period, but the disappointment of the opening 40 minutes was telling.
“I don’t have mixed emotions,” Blashill said. “I can look at things through clear eyes and I know it would have been great to come back and win and it would have been exciting and awesome, but there’s no doubt I also know if we did that, that’s not good enough. I’m worried about making sure it’s better than that.”
Filip Hronek (who added three assists), Carter Rowney, Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen scored for the Wings during the third-period flurry, which chased goaltender Jack Campbell (Port Huron), who was replaced by former Red Wing Petr Mrazek.
Toronto (34-14-4) scored three goals on goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic in just over 11 minutes and 13 shots to begin the game, leading to complete domination in the first 40 minutes.
Lucas Raymond and Sam Gagner scored for the Wings in the opening 40 minutes before the offense kicked into overdrive in the third period. Thomas Greiss stopped 10 of 14 shots before Nedeljkovic (18 saves on 24 shots) returned to begin the third period.
“I felt bad for our goalies,” Staal said. “We hung them out to dry.”
Toronto’s top line of Marner (four goals, two assists), Auston Matthews (one goal, three assists) and Michael Bunting (one goal, four assists) were dominant, almost toying with the Wings. Marner’s hat trick was the first of his career — he has 21 goals this season — and he scored his first three goals in a span of 8:46 in the second period.
William Nylander and David Kampf added Toronto goals.
Campbell stopped 20 of 25 shots before departing after Veleno’s goal cut the Leafs lead to 7-5. Mrazek stopped four of six shots, just enough to save Toronto from a massively embarrassing loss.
“We didn’t deserve to be in the game and their goalie let a couple soft ones in and we got back into it,” Staal said. “We didn’t roll over. You’re back in the game and it was such a crazy period. We’re pushing so hard to get back into it. But we gave up some grade A chances they capitalized on.”