Well, that happened. In a Red Wings game that felt like a lost cause almost immediately, the end result was rather unexpected. Let’s break down that 17 goal game and see how it ended up being that ridiculous.
The Red Wings started this game off on a rather flat note in which they seemed to have no energy and could not maintain possession of the puck hardly at all. Toronto is a very offense-heavy team so they were running circles around Detroit for the first half of the period and had put up two goals- one from William Nylander and another from Michael Bunting. 1
0:33 into the period, Lucas Raymond put the Red Wings on the board with his 14th goal of the season- starting a slow buildup of momentum. Another notable moment from this period would be when Moritz Seider laid out to keep the puck in possession- somehow going from being mid-dive to being up and skating with the puck, showing how strong of a player he is no matter what the game circumstances may be.
Alex Nedeljkovic started in goal for Detroit but was pulled after the 3rd Maple Leafs goal. Three goals were allowed in 11:08 which was a rather disastrous start to a game, especially for a team that struggles so hard with overcoming this sort of goal differential early on. Thomas Greiss took Nedeljkovic’s spot for the remainder of the period and did not allow any more goals- closing out the period 3-1 in favor of Toronto.
Nobody even had a chance to get comfortable on the ice before Mitch Marner slipped one past Greiss a mere 33 seconds into the period- his first of the game. About four minutes later, Marner nets another one… and then another one five minutes later. An absolutely huge night for the Maple Leafs defenseman, this would be Marner’s 1st career hat trick and also not the first career hat trick the Red Wings have allowed this season.
Sam Gagner got the 2nd Detroit goal off of a terrible play from Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell- his 6th of the season. Campbell had gone behind the net to play the puck, not realizing the proximity of the Red Wings offense, and managed to pass it directly into the stick of Gagner- leaving him with a fully open lane and an empty net. This 6-2 game only lasted about five minutes before Auston Matthews opened his scoring against Detroit this season with just under two minutes left in the period.
Now here’s where things got funky- the final 20 minutes. The first surprise was Alex Nedeljkovic being back in net which would be the 2nd goalie swap for the Red Wings in this game, a rather bizarre occurrence. Similar to the start of the second period, Filip Hronek recorded his 5th goal of the season just 35 seconds into the 3rd period.
This goal caught the crowd at Little Caesars Arena off guard as they were already accepting the loss since the score was 7-2, but that was just the start of the chaos. A minute and a half later, Carter Rowney- recently removed from injured reserve, making it a 7-4 game with his 3rd goal of the season.
Quickly followed by a goal from Joe Veleno (his 5th) then a goal from Michael Rasmussen (his 7th) and suddenly this 7-2 hopeless game was a 7-6 comeback- all within five minutes of the 3rd period. After the goal from Joe Veleno, Jack Campbell was pulled from goal and Petr Mrazek took the ice- getting scored on soon after.
At this point, the crowd at Little Caesars Arena was absolutely roaring loud enough to be heard through the radio broadcast. Ilya Mikheyev opened scoring for Toronto in the 3rd which was quickly answered with a goal from Lucas Raymond, his 15th, making it an 8-7 game.
The last two goals from Toronto were results of sloppy plays- one that slipped past the stick of Moritz Seider and was taken straight to net by Ondrej Kase and the other being a blunder by Filip Hronek. Hronek looked to pass back to Marc Staal but that pass was immediately gobbled up by Michael Bunting who passed it to Mitch Marner who has a wide-open backdoor shot as Bunting drew Nedeljkovic away from net.
Although it was a loss nonetheless, the fact that the Wings were able to come back with five goals in the 3rd period is impressive and something to be proud of.
Goaltending was Shaky
With all four goaltenders between the two teams seeing some ice time, a lot of painfully low save percentages were recorded in this 17 goal game. Jack Campbell (TOR) faced 25 shots and allowed five goals which gave him a .800 SV%, the highest of the night, from his 45 minutes of play. Petr Mrazek faced eight shots, two of which were goals resulting in a .750 SV% for 15 minutes of game time.
Alex Nedeljkovic had himself an odd game with being pulled and put back in, giving him a total of roughly 32 minutes of playing time. He also faced 25 shots yet allowed six, giving Ned a .760 SV%, the 2nd highest of the matchup. Greiss got the short end of the stick in terms of save percentage tonight- having played about 28 minutes and facing 14 shots, four of which were goals. His 0.714 SV% was the lowest of all four goalies in a very high-scoring game in which no goalie got out with a boastful record.
In a game that appeared to be completely and utterly doomed due to two periods of lackluster play from Detroit, there were plenty of surprises even though they did end up losing. Such a high-scoring game is not a commonality in the NHL nowadays so this 17 goal game was surely one to remember, especially when the score at the start of the 3rd was just 7-2.
Toronto did not end up completely blowing their lead as the Red Wings never pulled ahead, but losing that five-goal lead they started the 3rd with was definitely a humbling experience that brought Red Wings fans a lot of excitement.
Lucas Raymond was awarded 3rd star of the game (2G, 1A) following Auston Matthews (1G, 3A) and Mitch Marner (4G, 2A). Dylan Larkin and Moritz Seider both were able to continue their point streaks; one assist for Larkin and two for Seider.
Regarding the atmosphere in Little Caesars Arena for this game- there were a lot of Toronto jerseys speckled in with all the Detroit ones making the game environment twice as exciting almost. No matter which team scored, there was a sizeable cheer and celebration yet nothing could compete with the third-period excitement of Detroit fans.
It would have been easy for fans to leave after the 2nd period since the score was dismal yet something kept a majority of the fans in their seats, all of which erupted with joy when Detroit rallied those five 3rd period goals.
To quote Marc Staal in a post-game interview- “I was happy our crowd stuck around, to be honest.”
Yes- a loss is a loss but this loss felt slightly different to Red Wings fans because past years’ teams would not have been able to do anything close to that sort of a comeback. The excitement this team has sparked within their fans and other hockey fans alike has been something special and this 17 goal game is surely a moment to remember going forward.
It may not have been the best play that this team is capable of by any means, but this Feb. 27th matchup against Toronto proved that Detroit once again has a spark that is refusing to go out- a promising sign for the future of this team and the Hockeytown community as well.