Tatar hat trick helps Wings win home stand finale
Detroit — In dire need of a win, after four straight losses at home and to keep from falling even further behind in the playoff race, the Red Wings suddenly got offensive Saturday, scoring six goals for the first time all season to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 6-4.
The Wings forechecking suddenly was aggressively effective.
They took advantage of the mistakes they forced with it to attempt plenty of shots. The had much better “finish” on their scoring chances, including the first career hat trick for Tomas Tatar, who abruptly looked like a sniper again.
The fore-checking also helped them spend less time in their own zone, chasing the play and relying on their goaltending.
“It was a better effort today, overall,” said Henrik Zetterberg, whose forecheck on Tatar’s third goal helped him strip the puck from Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore before he knocked it toward Tatar who had plenty of time in alone on the goalie to put the Wings up 5-3.
“I thought we found a way to get our forecheck in on their ‘D,’ and we created some turnovers and took care of it,” Zetterberg said.
The Wings erased deficits of 2-0 and 3-1, and grabbed their first lead on the five-game home stand after 266:45 of play, in the second period.
“I really liked the team’s resolve today,” said Steve Ott, who fought in full form with Joseph Cramarossa at 11:01 of the first period, 44 seconds after the Wings went down 2-0.
At that juncture, they had to begin wondering if they would go 0-5 at home, before having to play 10 of 11 on the road through mid-January.
Ott said the fight provided “maybe a baby spark.”
But, he said, the real story was the fortitude of a much-criticized roster, down on its luck and in the standings and badly in need of a win against a better team.
“That’s the big picture: We stuck with it,” Ott said.
“We’ve struggled here in the last little while. Everybody knows that. You get down two goals right off the bat and it's tough to climb back into games, especially with strong teams like Anaheim and the way they play, a very dominant type style.
“But we found a way,” he said.
“And you finish the first period with 15 shots on goal. That was a sign that we were coming.”
Tatar’s hat trick included the Red Wings' second goal of the game on a fortunate bounce near the Ducks net that made it 3-2 and, according to the Red Wings, turned the fortunes of the contest.
“It gave us lift for sure,” Tatar said of his sudden good luck. “We’ve needed a bounce like that all season and suddenly we went in and everybody just started playing.
“It was a game changer for sure.”
Tatar scored his fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the season, in his 32d game.
“I feel the whole game we played really good, and after the four losses to bounce back like that, we just have to keep it up. No more ups and downs now.”
Xavier Ouellet notched his first goal of the season and added an assist.
Thomas Vanek had two assists.
Dylan Larkin scored his 10th goal of the season to tie the game at three, with assists by Luke Glendening, his seventh of the year, and Riley Sheahan, his sixth.
Jeff Blashill gave considerable credit to the new line of Larkin, Sheahan and Glendening for shutting down the Ducks’ big line centered by Ryan Getzlaf.
“I thought Sheahan was excellent, and it freed up other lines to play against other guys,” Blashill said.
He also thought a new line of Frans Nielsen, Vanek and Gus Nyquist was effective offensively. Nielsen scored the Wings' sixth goal at 10:33 of the third period to restore their two-goal lead at 6-4.
It was his seventh goal of the season.
Rickard Rakell opened the scoring for the Ducks on the power play at 3:41 of the first period, then Theodore added a second power-play marker at 10:17.
Then Ott fought and Tatar followed with his first goal at 13:33 of the first, to make it 2-1.
Cam Fowler, who grew up in Farmington Hills, scored the first goal of the second period at 5:16 to restore the Ducks' two-goal lead at 3-1.
He was assisted by Andrew Cogliano, the former Michigan star, and Ryan Kesler, the Livonia native.
Then the Wings did something they have not done in a long time: They exploded offensively.
Tatar collected the fortunate bounce and made it 3-2 at 7:14 of the second period.
Larkin added his goal at 11:22 to tie it at 3.
And 6 1/2 minutes later, Ouellet scored from Vanek and Nyquist for the Red Wings' first lead in five games at home, 4-3.
Then Tatar scored off Zetterberg’s forced turnover at 4:51 of the third. But Rakell answered with a goal of rare skill at 6:35, turning Danny DeKeyser inside out and using him as a screen to fire the puck by Mrazek, through his five hole.
But Nielsen tallied about four minutes later to make it 6-4.
“It’s a big relief,” said the 11 year-veteran, signed as a free agent in the off-season, who quickly has asserted a leadership role with the club.
“It’s been a tough stretch here, and I think we came out and we played tonight,” Nielsen said.
“We were skating, we were being physical, we were getting pucks deep and we made sure they had to work for everything they got out there.
“It was a good effort,” he said. “It was good to see that to just get some confidence in the room and to prove to ourselves that we are a good hockey team.”
It was their first win in regulation since Nov. 29 against the Stars, their second since Nov. 10 against the Canucks and only their third since they ran off five in a row from Oct. 17-25.
For Blashill, it was a long-sought turnaround that came from things they have long talked about.
“We felt like we needed to find a way to grind out two points one way or another,” he said.
“I’m most pleased with the fact that I thought our process was really good,” he said, of the emphasis and effectiveness on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and taking advantage of them with lots of shots and goals.
The Wings outshot the Ducks 32-25, and had 56 shot attempts to Anaheim’s 43.
“I think that is a process we’ve had a good amount, but we haven’t had it in the past couple of games,” Blashill said.
“So, it was good to see us get back to that good process.”