Red Wings victory is as big as all outdoors

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Denver — These outdoor hockey games, with all the festivities and hoopla, are a little more special for a team if it wins.

It took until the final minute Saturday but the Red Wings managed to do that with a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field.

Brad Richards scored at the 19-minute mark in the third period to break a 3-3 tie, with help from Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, who appeared to bat the puck into his own net.

Darren Helm added an empty-net goal with 19.3 seconds left to conclude the scoring.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 5, Avalanche 3

“I don’t know if it hit his back or something but we’ll take those,” said Richards, who was playing in his record fifth NHL outdoor game. “It was a special weekend to be part of. Growing up you wanted to watch Colorado and Detroit, with so many great players, and the history of that rivalry.

“It was a huge two points for our team.”

The victory ended a six-game winless road streak for the Red Wings, who hadn’t won a game away from Joe Louis Arena since Jan. 25 in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.

Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist each had a goal, breaking long offensive slumps, and Justin Abdelkader added a third-period goal.

“The points are unbelievably critical right now, finding a way to get two points is critical every night,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have 20 games left and we have to continue to finding a way to get two points.”

A sellout crowd of 50,095 attended Saturday’s Stadium Series game, a successful and entertaining event all the way around, including almost ideal weather up until the wind began to strengthen beginning in the second period.

In the third, huge gusts made the fake snow blow all around Coors Field and momentarily stopped the game.

The teams switched ends at the 10-minute mark of the third period because of the wind.

“We talked before the game, when you play events like this a lot of things happen, and you have to be prepared for weird stuff to happen,” Blashill said. “You have to stay poised. I don’t think it had a real affect, just a few moments where that happened.”

Said goalie Petr Mrazek of the flying cotton: “It was like it was snowing a little bit.”

Tatar hadn’t scored a point in eight games but saw that streak end with his 17th goal to open the scoring.

Nyquist ended a stretch of 11 games without a goal early in the third period with his 15th goal, tying the score at 2.

Abdelkader gave the Red Wings a 3-2 lead at 13:28, only to see Colorado’s ageless Alex Tanguay tie it 14 seconds later.

Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie scored first-period goals for the Avalanche.

The Red Wings' ineffective power play went without a goal for a sixth consecutive game, going 0-for-5. It is 0-for-17 over the six games.

Tatar scored his 17th goal — his first point in eight games — to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 5:07 of the first period.

But the Avalanche quickly answered, with MacKinnon scoring on a wrist shot from the top of the circle, his 20th goal, at 7:44.

The second period saw each team only put four shots on net before Nyquist scored at 1:27 of the third period to ignite the Red Wings rally. His backhander handcuffed Varlamov.

“Nyquist’s goal was big for us, it kind of got us going,” Abdelkader said. “From there, we played good. We got better as the game went on.”