Among the frustrations in a game many of us can easily say in hindsight that we had chalked up as a loss from the get-go is the hope of having carried a lead through most of the game and into the third period. In our season-opening edition of Key Plays, I want to breakdown how the 3-2 lead evaporated for Detroit on a decently-common breakdown that led to a higher-probability rush which capitalized early in the third period.
Just shy of 3 minutes into the third, Brayden Point rushes up ice off a blocked Gustav Nyquist shot trying to split the D between Zetterberg and DeKeyser (Ericsson had just completed a rush to the net-front). DK bodies off Point as he tries to dangle him and Mrazek pushes it aside. DK recovers and goes up the wall for Tatar, who has it go over his stick, allowing Stralman to dump it back behind the net. Mrazek goes back to help it along to Ericsson who quickly taps it to Z to start transition.
With Boyle already pressuring Hank from behind, Cedric Paquette immediately crosses the ice to angle him off, forcing a simple dump up the boards to Frans Nielsen and out of the zone (this is also where Ericsson changes for Marchenko). Braydon Coburn is right there on Nielsen to keep him from going any farther, but Nielsen makes a good play to make sure the puck doesn’t stop going up ice and pushes it forward where Tatar can get over and skate into it while Anton Stralman takes up position to keep him to the outside.
Tatar picks it up at the blue line and gives a bit of delay, which makes Stralman have to respect the idea of him cutting to the middle, before he goes back across his body and accelerates to the outside to take the behind-the-net path.
The Tipping Point
JT Brown comes low to help Stralman, who has lost the race with Tatar and wouldn’t be able to keep up with him around the back of the net. Brown cuts off his path, so Tatar stops up and turns back to feed it back to the point for a trailer who should have room to step in close and take a good shot now that all five Tampa defenders have collapsed no higher than the dots. Unfortunately, Boyle is back in that lane and gets his stick on the pass, disarming this Detroit rush and setting up the one for the Bolts, as Paquette gets to it before the oncoming defenseman can.
By the time Tatar is attempting this pass, both Marchenko and Zetterberg are already positioning themselves high in the zone to turn this into what is basically a 2-on-1 against Paquette that should net them a high-quality chance. Instead, Paquette bounces it off the boards to an open spot behind both.
Another angle of the two-man pinch where you can see what Marchenko and Zetterberg are trying to set up while Tatar has the puck.
The End Result
Boyle is moving the right way against Marchenko and Zetterberg moving the wrong way as Paquette bounces it behind both of them. DeKeyser gets back, but JT Brown is able to join Boyle to make it a 2-on-1. DK does a good job of both blocking the passing lane and making sure Boyle doesn’t have room to cut in, but Mrazek has to back up enough to keep Boyle from beating him to his post and that gives him just enough room to hit the near-side top corner with the puck to tie it.
The Red Wings would go on to allow three more goals, so this one didn’t lose them the game, but it lost them the lead. Alexey Marchenko is going to take a lot of criticism for an objectively bad night, but in terms of how this play developed, he made an aggressive read while the Wings still had the puck in an attempt to make a play that could have extended their lead. You can still blame him for this, but you could also argue that Marchenko had the more-responsible lane to pinch and that Zetterberg should have been covering back for him.
You also can and should argue that Tatar’s failure to get his pass up to where it needed to go looms every bit as large. It just goes to show that it’s very rare in hockey where anything is truly just one person’s fault.