One of Mike Babcock's favourite phrases is "starting on time". It's too bad that for Christmas he didn't get the Wings some alarm clocks.
The Wings went into their new House of Horrors and once again could not come away with any points. The ACC has been a nightmare for the Wings, and they dropped their 4th straight game in Toronto as they couldn't complete their rally, losing to the Maple Leafs 4-3.
The Wings generally played a decent first period, but mistakes were costly. Ultimately, they surrendered 3 goals 3 different ways, something that wasn't fun to watch yet was interesting to those of us who enjoy weird happenings. Phil Kessel was the first to get involved, scoring on a penalty shot with what was an admittedly good move. Plays like that will ensure that he's not picked last for the All-Star Game again. Dion Phaneuf made it 2-0 when he took a nice pass from Dan Cleary and ripped a shot past Jimmy Howard. Then David Steckel converted a pass from Joffrey "I Spell My Name Like a High School Dropout" Lupul after a great chance by the Wings, and it appeared the rout was on.
However, there's a reason why games are 60 minutes, not 20, and the Wings launched a valiant effort to try and get back in the game. Follow the jump for 2nd and 3rd period highlights and the bullets.
The Wings woke up in the second period, taking over the game. They did not allow a SOG in the first 12 minutes of the period, and outshot the Leafs 30-8 over the final 40 minutes. Todd Bertuzzi broke the shutout 7 minutes into the second, tipping in a Pavel Datsyuk shot past Jonas Gustavsson, who was really good in this game. The Wings continued to pour on the pressure, and they got to within one when Niklas Kronwall drove the net and put a backhand in the net.
The Wings came out hard in the third, and Jiri Hudler's money shot tied the game at 3. Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived as Lupul struck after taking a nice pass behind the net from Niklas Kronwall and roofed a backhand over a sprawled Howard to give the Leafs a lead they would never relinquish. The Wings came close to tying it late, but some great saves by Gustavsson preserved the win.
- For all the accolades that Niklas Kronwall has received this year, what we tend to forget is that he will never be the defensive stalwart the Wings can rely on to be a #1 guy once Lidstrom retires. His giveaway to Lupul was inexcusable, and if it weren't for Brad Stuart being out there with him, my nervousness would increase 55 times when he's on the ice against the other team's top players.
- Leaf fans can talk all they want about score effects and the Leafs sitting back after they built the lead, but the Wings were good throughout the game and dominated the second the third. Were it not for Gustavsson making some huge saves later in the game, we'd be talking about a huge Wings comeback.
- Alas, defensive miscues proved to be the Wings' undoing tonight. The blown coverage on Kessel led to him being hooked and getting a penalty shot. Cleary passed the puck directly to Phaneuf while the Leafs were on the power play, resulting in the second goal. Then Kronwall gives up the puck to Lupul and Howard pulls a Hasek on the 4th goal. It's been a trend this season that the Wings have seen their mistakes end up in the net, and tonight was another case of this being true.
- For the second straight game, Jimmy Howard gave up 4 goals, so get those fingers hovering over the panic button. I'll admit that I am starting to get very concerned about his workload, because there's no way that he should have started 35 games halfway through the season.
- The Leafs are a team that "travels" very well in terms of road fan support. That's why it's great hearing the loud cheers when the Wings mounted their comeback and tied the game in the third.
- For a team that has struggled on the road this season, tonight's game is a beacon of hope that they can turn things around. They played a good game for the most part, and it was errors that ultimately led to the loss. It's something to build on going forward.