The Maple Leafs had a lot on the line when it came to the respect of their fans, and losing to the Red Wings was not happening on the night. They got the best of Detroit scoring three unanswered, capitalizing on mistakes in a 4-1 score at Air Canada Centre Saturday. Toronto won their second straight while making things up to their fans.
Detroit played the Maple Leafs for the third time this season and with their two game streak hanging over Toronto, the Red Wings looked to Henrik Zetterberg to bring his best against them once more. In their home and home series, the Detroit captain recorded a goal and four assists with his line dominating the Leafs outscoring them 5-1. Tomas Tatar has been heating up since Thursday since is thrilling performance against Winnipeg where he scored the game winner and two goals on the night. Detroit has a huge advantage coming into to this one as Toronto deals with injuries while battling a team that has roles from new players making their name in hockey.
Toronto came out hard to get out front and showed their strength on a pair of Detroit penalties. During the Leafs second chance on the man advantage, Howard made a big save on the glove side of the net showing the firm penalty kill that Detroit owns. Toronto gained the lead on an even strength situation where a lucky bounce in front of the Detroit net for Leo Komarov to pick up his second of the season. The Red Wings had a great showing on their first power play with decent shots to the net only to be stopped by the Toronto PK unit and Jonathan Bernier in net. Detroit took the Leafs out of their power play to finish the period down a goal but flawless when killing the man advantage.
Detroit spent plenty of time in the second trying to make it a game with the Leafs but they allowed Toronto to get another chance on the man advantage. After knocking four of four, they rewarded themselves with a big goal on the Red Wings third line where Xavier Ouellet got the puck to Tatar near the corner end to get his ninth goal and gave Ouellet his first career assist and point. “He’s a good player, knows how to play,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He’s good with the puck moves the puck and plays well.” Tatar found more opportunities to fire the puck on Bernier as the Red Wings fought to take the lead before the end of the period. They lost possession in the final two minutes where the Leafs went back to work on Howard getting their scoring chances in but inevitably denied by the Red Wings goaltender.
Both teams skirmished hard in the third period as gaining the lead became the order for winning the game on one another. The Red Wings went on their second power play where a bad play turned the tide in favor of Toronto. Detroit made a pass to the neutral zone where it was stolen by Tyler Bozak who skated into the Detroit end while shorthanded and scored the go ahead on a backhander on the top shelf for his seventh this season. In this rivalry, the one goal lead was a strong position to hold between the pair of Original Six teams.
Toronto maintained their interest against Detroit as their young guns attacked Bernier with every chance with the puck that came to their stick. The problem came in the final minutes where the Red Wings defense fell apart as Peter Holland made it a 3-1 score in favor of the Maple Leafs. His wrist shot came on a rush towards Howard where his shot beat him at the point scoring his fifth and leaving Howard to slam his stick into the crossbar. The time for desperation came at the skates of the Red Wings who took Howard out of the net for the sixth attacker down a pair of goals. It only led to disaster as Bozak scored his second of the night on the empty netter to send Detroit packing. Before the Maple Leafs left the ice, they gave their fans a big salute after snubbing the crowd the night before after a fan threw a Leafs jersey onto the ice.
Bernier’s achieved a great ending to the net where he made 27 saves with a .963 save percentage and his second straight win. Howard on the other hand got the short end of his stick as the problems succumbing both side of Detroit’s game left him with his fourth loss a=making 24 saves.
“I think we played good for two periods and then we gave the game away too many turnovers we turned the puck over and they had odd man rushes and breakaways,” said Zetterberg to Fox Sports Detroit reporter Trevor Thompson “We do those mistakes.” In total Detroit gave away the puck 13 times to Toronto which led to their ultimate fate. “To me we didn’t play good enough in the third and it cost us,” Babcock said in his post game words “Back to the drawing board get focused and back at it.”