Wings ruin the backup’s shutout late, drop 4-1 decision in Toronto

The Wings head to Toronto as a warmup game before their pre-Christmas rivalry matchup against Phil Kessel and the Coyotes on Sunday. The Wings take this matchup so lightly that they’re not even bothering to dress Frans Nielsen or Justin Abdelkader. Hopefully playing down to the level of the Maple Leafs doesn’t bite them.

FS-D does some holiday Ozzie’s shack thing and all I can notice is that he hasn’t set the clock on the oven in his basement.

First Period

Dylan Larking gets a breakaway on the very first shift and beats Hutchinson, but hits the goalpost on the backhand, shows visible frustration. The Wings are able to keep pressure on for the first run-through of the lines, as Robby Fabbri and Luke Glendening also get decent scoring chances off the hop. Toronto gets their first chance(s) at 3:20 on a shift that sees three big stopped shots and one pinged goalpost.

Things finally settle almost seven minutes in as we go to break pending the first period of the game: Anthony Mantha for tripping.  We come out of the commercial break with Calvin Pickard in goal having replaced Jonathan Bernier (lower body). Matthews and Tavares test the new netminder with one-timers from the top of the dot to no avail. Mantha escapes the box with no harm done, but by the time we’re ready for the second commercial break, the Leafs have taken the early 4-0 shots disadvantage and caught the Wings.

Shortly after, Larkin gets yet another break-in try, this time the goalie stops it. Ilya Mikheyev gets the next quality chance on a rush that he puts off the post behind Pickard. The period is fling by to this point.

Out of the third break, the Leafs are controlling the puck more, but Detroit’s defense stays pretty well structured and get a couple counter-punch opportunities in.  Blashill also has the blender on full-puree at this point, as we’ve now seen Perlini, Erne, and Athanasiou all played in Zadina’s slot on Larkin’s wing.

The final scoring chance of the period is a missed net by Trevor Daley on a rebound off an Athanasiou shot.

The Score: 0-0
The Shots: 10-10
Standout Playersa: Dylan Larkin, Calvin Pickard, Filip Hronek
The Period All Summed Up: Like Bernier, I also have a questionable lower body.

Second Period

Chris Osgood’s mom is the star of the FSD Intermission.

The period starts off much like the first, with the Wings taking the early momentum and the first four shots until the Leafs’ first good shift almost three minutes in. Nothing going for either team here, but Glendening almost sneaks a redirect under Hutchinson at 4:09.  This time though, the Wings continue the pressure all the way to the first break. The skill level with the Leafs is evident, but Detroit’s defensive zone structure remains strong.

Just out of the break, the Wings spring Athanasiou in alone on Hutchinson for a chance that the Leafs’ backup stones. Great transition play by Green on a steal created by a backchecking Helm.

The Leafs’ next dangerous chance comes about 8:30 in as Trevor Moore received a pass in the slot that he put just over the net. Not long after, Robby Fabbri and Alex Kerfoot take matching slashing calls for getting uppity with one another, so we go 4-on-4.  Auston Matthews is dangerous for the Leafs with the extra space, but both Green and Hronek do good work staying on him.

Detroit continues the pressure, but late in the period Zach Hyman gets a breakaway chance. Mike Green makes a diving sweepcheck that takes him down and earns a penalty, but it doesn’t matter because Green’s slide takes the puck into the net and it’s 1-0 Maple Leafs.

Blashill decides not to challenge, so we do end up not having to go shorthanded.

Toronto carries the lead and the momentum out of this goal, but that ends with just under a minute - Robby Fabbri is tripped by Jake Muzzin in the neutral zone and barely avoids crashing head-first into the boards.

Larkin does good work on the PP, but nothing doing for the Wings and the period ends.

The Score: 1-0 Leafs
The Shots: 23-16 Wings (13-6)
Standout Players: Darren Helm, Luke Glendening
The Period All Summed Up: Luke Glendening was Detroit’s most-dangerous offensive weapon.

Third Period

Wings come into the third with about a minute of power play left. Zadina gets one shot off, but that’s stopped and Muzzin skates free long enough to see Zadina take a penalty immediately after.  Detroit gets just 39 seconds of PK accomplished here before Matthews scores to make it 2-0 Leafs.

Marner with a good move through center to set up the play.  The bump-up shift nearly features a goal by Mikheyev left all alone in the slot, saved only by bad aim from making it 3-0.

Minutes later as play calms down, Ken Daniels finally takes the opportunity to use the phrase “busting in is Zach Hyman.” You can almost hear the smirk in the silence that followed.

Hyman then indeed busts in and DOES make it 3-0 Leafs. Right after Larkin sets Mantha up for a one-timer that miasses the net, Matthews feeds Hyman who takes an angle in on Daley and backhands it top shelf.

From here, we just wait for the Wings to give up the two they need to surrender in order to make quota.

6:21 left and we just have one more. Matthews from Marner: 4-0 Leafs.

Athanasiou put a shot on net at 15:49 and the Toronto crowd cheered their goalie having something to do.

Two minutes to go, Jake Muzzin hits Bowey hard on a zone entry. Mantha steps up to take exception and Muzzin body-slams him in the scrum. The big guy stays down a bit before being helped off in a bit of a fuzzy state. Great way to finish a game.

Detroit does end up with a power play and they break the shuout on Tyler Bertuzzi’s 100th career point. He cleans up an Athanasiou rebound with 1:44 remaning. 4-1 Leafs.

Immediately after, Travis Dermott gets a ten-minute misconduct, very likely for saying something really shitty to the refs about how their team ended up shorthanded for body-slamming.

We don’t go silently into the night as Athanasiou takes a run at Kerfoot that misses. Holl takes exception, but AA ends up throwing the first punch and then body-slamming Holl. AA gets four minutes of penalties on top of the fighting, so the Leafs play the last 33.8 seconds of the game with four minutes of PP time.

Final Score: 4-1 Leafs
The Shots: 30-23 Wings (7-7)
Standout Players: Athanasiou
The Period All Summed Up: No.

Final Thoughts

I think Dylan Larkin is starting to feel better. He had a fun shift in the second period battling three different Leafs to progress the puck along the boards in the neutral zone and create a scoring opportunity for Mantha.

Filip Hronek’s patience and Patrik Nemeth’s positioning really stood out.

We got through two periods in solid moral victory territory. Unfortunately, as the Wings had to start taking more chances to try and create offense, the Leafs were able to take advantage of the space that created for them on the counterattack and eventually wore them down.

The necessity of Jake Muzzin making a big step-up hit n the late portions of a regular season game is a fun thing to argue.  Taking your foot off the gas can lead to injuries the same as flooring it in situations like this, but what looked like a slew-foot bodyslam is horseshit no matter the situation. If you want to take the five minutes for fighting, then do that.

I’m no happier about Athanasiou sticking his knee out on the next shift as I am about that either. The team showing frustration to end a frustrating game where they played well for two periods makes sense and could be something to build on, but you can’t focus it on taking cheap runs at guys.

Wings prepare to deck the Halls with Arizona tomorrow night at home.