Toronto — Just a matter of about five or six shifts.
Breakdowns at those critical junctures shattered any chance the Red Wings had of collecting a much-needed two points and detracted from a great comeback in Sunday’s Centennial Classic.
Instead, the Red Wings lost 5-4 in overtime when Toronto's star rookie Auston Matthews scored his 20th goal at 3 minutes, 40 seconds of overtime.
A chilled crowd of 40,148 at BMO Field left excited, waking up from two periods of sleepy hockey with an exciting finish.
Toronto exploded for four goals as the Red Wings wilted in the third period to take a 4-1 lead — only to see the Red Wings roar back with three goals to tie the contest and force overtime.
“It was nice to see we could rally and get back in the game,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who had three assists. “Unfortunately, it got away from us a little earlier in the third. They took advantage of some mistakes we did and they scored some goals.
“It was probably five or six shifts that we didn’t play the way we should and they really took advantage of it.”
Anthony Mantha scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 1.1 seconds left in regulation during a goal-mouth scramble.
“We were just trying to put the puck, every puck, to the net,” said Mantha of the last-second flurry. “There wasn’t much time left. I took a little peek before I got the puck and as I tapped it in, I looked again to see if there was time remaining.”
Mantha saw the third period similarly to his linemate Zetterberg.
“We started running around for five, six, or seven shifts,” Mantha said. “Everyone was running around obviously, they just kept the pressure going, and they managed to score a goal after goal after goal.”
The result left a conflicting set of emotions for the Red Wings, who valued the point in the standings and impressive comeback — but really need two points in the standings as the halfway mark of the schedule approaches and they slip out of the playoff chase.
“Losing is real disappointing, losing in overtime is disappointing after you fought your way back, but to not win it,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “But in the end of the day we found a way to get a point in this league and this league is about getting points and we need to get them as consistently as we can.
“We need to take from this game, make sure accentuate the positives and learn from the negatives, and move to Anaheim and get points.”
Jonathan Ericsson, Dylan Larkin and Mantha (his second goal) scored the Red Wings’ three goals in a flurry of 6:04, tying the game.
Leo Komarov, Mitch Marner, Connor Brown and Matthews (who added the overtime winner) scored goals in a 10 minute, 42 second span to open the third period.
Goalie Jared Coreau stopped all 17 shots through two periods, but only three of seven in the third period.
“Not good enough,” said Coreau of his third period. “I have to play better and close out the third. But the bonus is we got a point, we came back, and we got a point out of it.”
Toronto twice failed to clear the puck in the final seconds and Mantha made them pay, tying the game and completing the Red Wings rally from a 4-1 deficit.
Jonathan Ericsson cut the lead to 4-2 with a one-timer at 13:54, his first goal of the season, set up by Mantha.
Larkin then made it 4-3 at 18:14, converting off a goal-mouth scramble.
“We played good for a long period, for lots of the game and they just scored three goals in a real quick span,” Blashill said. “I can’t say it was even 10 minutes in the third, it did seem like a handful of shifts, and we didn’t execute the way you need to execute to win.
“But our guys hung in there.”