Maple disbelief! Dylan Larkin wins it in OT as Wings eclipse .500
Toronto — The Red Wings have faced Boston, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Toronto in this particular stretch of the schedule — a week that was supposed to begin another plunge in the standings for the Wings.
Instead, the Wings have won two of those games, earned five of eight points, and for what it’s worth are two points within a wild-card spot in early December.
Thursday’s 5-4 overtime victory over Toronto, although not a work of art, was the latest positive reinforcement for these gritty Wings.
“We battle and we play for each other,” said forward Dylan Larkin, who won it at 2:48 of overtime on a breakaway goal. “We’re playing good hockey right now. We just played two games against the top teams in the Eastern Conference (the Wings lost 6-5 in a shootout to Tampa) and for the most part, we were the better team both nights.”
The Wings made it much harder than it needed to be against the Maple Leafs — just as they let two-goal leads disappear against Tampa.
The Wings led 4-1 entering the third period and then saw the Leafs score three times, tying the game.
“Would you have liked to salt away that game at 4-1? Sure you would,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “But that’s not the way it goes all the time. Obviously we were a little bit shorthanded and our guys battled extremely hard.”
It was the Wings' first victory in Toronto since April 2, 2016. They are 3-8-0 over their last 11 games against the Leafs.
“They’ve had our number, and it’s never easy to win this building,” said defenseman Mike Green, who had a goal and assist. “We played real well for 40 minutes, had a bit of lapse in the third, and made a good push.
“But we played well enough to win.”
The victory put the Wings back over the .500 mark (13-12-4, 30 points) despite not having forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (suspension) and Anthony Mantha (hand), and defensemen Trevor Daley (lower body) and Danny DeKeyser (hand) out of the lineup.
Toronto (20-8-1, 41 points) came into the game with the league’s second-best record and a five-game win streak.
Goals from John Tavares, Zach Hyman (Michigan) and Andreas Johnsson erased a 4-1 Wings' lead in the third period, and tied the game in a span of 8:58.
“We knew going into the game they had a lot of firepower on that team,” said forward Gustav Nyquist, who had a goal and two assists, including springing Larkin free in overtime. “We gave them too much space (in the third period) and you give those guys space they make you pay.”
Goals from Jonathan Ericsson, Luke Glendening and Nyquist put the Wings ahead 3-1 after one period, with Green adding a goal in the second period.
Bernier stopped 27 shots to earn the victory.
“We didn’t panic, and in the overtime it was all us,” Bernier said. “We just kept grinding and we came out on top.”
Against a Toronto power play that entered the game ranked 3rd in the NHL, the Wings were outstanding on the penalty kill snuffing all four Leafs power plays.
“Doug Houda (assistant coach in charge of the PK) did a great job of coming up with the plan and our guys did a great job of going out and executing it,” Blashill said.
“That’s a dangerous power play and we took too many penalties for my liking, but the kill was great.”