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Key Play Breakdown: Wings’ inability to start the third period leads to Canadiens’ game-winner

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NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings lost their second straight game by dropping a 3-2 contest to a Montreal Canadiens team tired from traveling (and travel delays) the night before. At least this loss was less-ugly than the one in October. I really wanted to write up one of Andreas Athanasiou’s two goals, but we didn’t get a third, so we’re stuck with a “what went wrong”

Still, go check out those goals to make yourself feel better.

Athanasiou’s first

Athanasiou’s second

Just come back up here and follow the links after reading this. Here’s the game-winner from Jeff Petry:

The Setup

Detroit wastes the final second of a Jesperi Kotkaniemi penalty by losing the opening faceoff of the third period and have to chase into the Montreal zone trying to recover the puck. Mike Reilly gets it and throws it up the boards where Luke Glendening and Nick Jensen pinch to keep it in. Jensen is pinched off by Danault as he carries to the corner and he tries to spin away and pass the puck to Darren Helm in the middle.

Instead of Helm, the pass finds its way onto Jeff Petry’s stick and the Habs start the breakout as Petry makes a quick stick-handle around Helm and punches it up to Tomas Tatar to turn it up ice from just inside his own blue line.

Tatar takes up the right wing lane and is joined by Brendan Gallagher on the left. Danault picks up the center lane just behind his linemates. At the point of entry into the Wings’ zone, Detroit has Kronwall and Glendening back minding their gaps against Tatar and Gallagher while Helm and Jensen both collapse in looking for the trailer who is right between them.

The Finish

Tatar drags Kronwall down the boards while Glendening watches Gallagher on the back post. Helm leaves Jensen to cover Danault coming between the two and steps in to pressure Tatar.

While doing this, Helm loses the lane to the trailing Petry and Tatar finds him with the puck and now with enough room to walk into the slot and snap the puck into the net.

The Blame Game

Athanasiou gets a pass on this one as he’s the deep man in the zone when the turnover happens and is tracking back exactly how he ought to be on Mike Reilly. Him rushing in to cover Petry would have simply left somebody else wide open.

Petry’s responsibility was on Darren Helm and, while the decision to help pinch on Tatar wasn’t necessarily terrible (considering Tatar’s stop-up was decently far from the boards and against the not-so-mobile Nik Kronwall), his failure to stop the pass highlights what happens when you gamble on helping out your defender like this and lose. This play allowed the puck to go from a relatively low-danger area to a very high-danger area. Combine this with letting the first outlet pass from Petry to Tatar connect right through him and the lion’s share of the blame on this goal rests on Helm’s shoulders.

Kronwall’s fault on this is that he’s simply not mobile enough to effectively close on Tatar better. The defender would like to be able to pinch the puck-carrier off at the boards here, but Kronwall can’t do that with Tatar because of the speed built up through the neutral zone.

Glendening is covering on this entire sequence like he should be. He has to watch Gallagher and is tying up the stick and keeping the goalie’s vision unobstructed while it’s happening. Some Selke-level stuff might get him out to block the Petry shot, but that’s a risk a lot like Darren Helm took which led to this play happening. I don’t blame him for NOT doing that, but when you see the result, maybe you also want to see him try to both cover the passing lane to Gallagher and go challenge the puck-carrier left wide open by his teammate.

Jensen made a bad pass in the offensive zone to turn it over and then, just like Glendening, didn’t take the chance of blocking the passing lane to his own coverage responsibility while trying to pressure the guy bringing the puck down Rainbow Road. I’m more mad about the bad pass in the offensive zone than the refusal to abandon Danault, but he’s got his fair share of blame on this one as well.