Coach Jeff Blashill talks about Sunday's 3-2 victory over Vegas. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — Anthony Mantha hadn’t been having his best game, but in this situation, he wasn’t going to pass the puck.
Mantha was driving toward the net, alone, after sidestepping Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb, who made an unsuccessful poke for the puck.
Suddenly, Mantha had the game on his stick with just over 30 seconds left.
Mantha had teammates entering the zone, but he wasn’t going to give up the puck.
“My passing was not on point today,” Mantha said. “I was shooting 100 percent.”
Fortunately for the Wings, Mantha did. He beat goalie Malcolm Subban with the game-winner with just 31 seconds left, giving the Wings a dramatic and exciting 3-2 victory over Vegas on Sunday at Little Caesars Arena.
It was Mantha’s 11th goal this season — he also scored the exclamation point empty-net goal Friday against Boston — and capped a successful weekend for the Wings, after a lot of losing.
“It gives us a little bit of confidence,” Mantha said of the two victories over elite teams, after having lost 12 of 13 games. “Obviously (goaltender Jonathan) Bernier has been playing real good and we’re playing better defensively. That’s how we have to play to win these games.”
Coach Jeff Blashill flipped Mantha off the top line during the course of the game and Mantha wasn’t as sharp as he’s been most of this season.
But with the game on the line, Mantha again showed that ability to break a game open.
“He’s a dangerous offensive player, and on a consistent basis he’s been our most dangerous offensive player,” Blashill said. “I didn’t think he was at his best, but that’s what an offensive player can do. Sometimes when they’re not at their best, they can score, and you have to score in this game.
“You’re not going to have your best game every night, but scorers find ways to score and he did.”
The Wings (6-12-1, 13 points) followed an impressive victory over Boston (11-3-2) with another solid win over Vegas (9-7-3).
The Wings earned this victory, though not playing at the level they did against Boston, which was actually encouraging.
“We defended not bad, we didn’t give up a whole bunch,” Blashill said. “I didn’t think we were nearly as sharp as we need to be. We’ve played lots of games we deserved to win and didn’t win.
“Tonight was a game, I don’t know if we deserved to lose, but we found a way to win and that’s part of getting the job done in this league.”
Madison Bowey tied the game at 2 at 10:57 of the third period, his first goal, and it was a highlight-reel tally.
Bowey was in the process of being tripped when he was hauled down to the ice by William Carrier. As Bowey was going down, he lifted a shot toward net that beat Subban glove side to tie the game.
Anthony Mantha talks about his late, game-winning goal against Vegas on Sunday. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“Everyone was hyped,” Mantha said of the reaction on the bench. “He admitted he tried to pass that one, but as he was falling, it trickled through and a goal is a goal. We’re going to take it.”
Bowey admitted, yes, he was looking to pass.
“(Robby) Fabbri was open back door, and until I got tripped there, I was thinking of passing,” Bowey said. “But I just put it on net and it went in.”
When was the last time Bowey estimates he scored a goal from his knees?
“Probably when I was 5 or 6 years old,” Bowey said. “That doesn’t happen too often.”
Andreas Athanasiou (power play) scored the first goal for the Wings, while Bernier stopped 17 shots in his second consecutive start (first such back-to-back all season).
For now, Bernier has taken hold of the net after both he and Jimmy Howard struggled to claim hold of the job.
“Neither guy kind of grabbed it,” Blashill said. “That’s not to place blame on them, but nobody grabbed it. He (Bernier) has deserved to start (the last two games), so good for him.”
Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty (Michigan) had goals for Vegas while Subban made 16 saves.