Late Matthews goal dashes Red Wings’ rally
Detroit — They’ve had several of these this season, but Sunday’s loss is going to leave a mark with the Red Wings.
With the game seemingly headed into overtime, and the Red Wings in position to earn another point or two in the standings, Toronto’s Auston Matthews had other ideas.
The Maple Leafs’ star scored with 30.2 seconds left in regulation time, giving Toronto a dramatic 3-2 victory.
“We had chances, it was pretty even,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “They made one more play than us.”
After the Leafs won the faceoff — the Red Wings had iced the puck — William Nylander got the puck and drove to the net, the shot attempt was steered away, but Matthews got the puck near the circle and beat goaltender Petr Mrazek just under the crossbar.
The goal was the 27th for Matthews, who has seven goals in six career games against the Red Wings.
“He had a couple of chances but overall we had done a pretty good job (against Matthews),” Blashill said. “Nylander had a big part of the winning goal, taking the puck to the net. It went off Double-A’s (Andreas Athanasiou’s) stick to him (Matthews) and they were able to score.”
Said Anthony Mantha, who scored the Red Wings’ first goal: “It’s a lucky goal there. We had two stick on the puck and they still managed to get it in the net. Things happen that way. They got the lucky bounce in the end.”
The Red Wings (24-25-9, 57 points) appeared to be headed toward overtime and at least one crucial point in the standings, but instead got nothing in the tight playoff chase.
This latest final-minute defeat is another crushing blow to the Red Wings’ fading playoff chances.
“We’re leaving points out there,” Blashill said. “We did a good job in Nashville (Saturday’s 3-1 victory) and against Anaheim (2-1 victory last week), but we’re leaving points out there.
“When it’s a close game, you want it to go your way and not the other way.”
As well as the Red Wings played against Toronto, the bitter way they lost hurt.
“It would be better if we would have had at least one point,” Mrazek said. “It’s so hard to talk about how we played. This was an important two points on the line.”
Henrik Zetterberg tied the game 2-2 at 9 minutes, 17 seconds of the third period.
Gustav Nyquist (who had two assists), wheeled into the zone, controlled it momentarily and then found Zetterberg alone at the doorstep. Zetterberg easily tapped the puck past goalie Curtis McElhinney for his his eighth goal.
Just before Zetterberg’s goal, Mrazek kept it a one-goal deficit for the Red Wings, turning aside Zach Hyman (Michigan) on a breakaway.
“Pete was real good, and made two huge saves in the third to put us in position to try and win the game,” Blashill said.
The Maple Leafs took the lead midway in the second period after the Red Wings opened the scoring on Mantha’s goal.
Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk (24th goal, at 7:02) and Mitch Marner (14th, at 7:20) scored goals 18 seconds apart — after Mantha (power play, 20th goal at 5:51) had given the Red Wings a brief lead — in the second period.
“It was a tight game,” Nyquist said. “They had some chances, Petr had a big save on a 2-on-1, we had opportunities too.
“But again we give up a goal late in the game and it’s a tough one. We played hard. We battled and we had all of our guys going. Petr played great again. Tight game and they score late and it’s a tough loss.”