Photos by Kaileigh Brammer/MiHockey
By @SKubus –
DETROIT – When the Red Wings and Maple Leafs meet these days as often as they do thanks to the NHL realignment, the atmosphere–both on and off the ice–is unbelievably hot.
But Wednesday night, Detroit ran into something even hotter: James Reimer.
The Maple Leafs’ masked man stopped 41 of 42 shots–one off a season high for Detroit set on Nov. 24 against Ottawa–en route to a 2-1 shootout win to snap Detroit’s three-game win streak. Northern Michigan product Mike Santorelli potted the shootout-winner for Toronto. Gustav Nyquist scored for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard turned away 18 of 19.
“I didn’t think we executed in the scoring area,” head coach Mike Babcock said. “The goalie was good, but we had breakaways, we had opportunities and we just didn’t finish, so give him credit.
“We got a point. They stole two points, but I’ll take it every night. If you play like that, you’re going to win.”
Despite the loss, the point earned for forcing OT gave Detroit its 40th of the season and sole possession of the Eastern Conference’s top spot.
“Getting points is good when you can get them,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Obviously, we wanted two here at home, but one points is better than no points. If you count how the game ended, we did a 3 on 4 there for almost a minute, so I think we’re going to be OK with this tomorrow and now we’ve just got to move on.”
On the Red Wings’ 22nd shot of the contest, Nyquist finally beat Reimer with his 13th of the season, a gorgeous spinning backhand goal all alone from the slot after taking a pass from Tomas Jurco. That sent Detroit to the dressing room with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
“Jurco was strong, strong with the puck, he won a lot of battles,” Zetterberg said. “On that play, he won a battle in the corner and he was open, got the puck and then Gus was there for the rebound, so it was fun to see.”
In recent history, Detroit had been doing a good job of keeping Toronto sniper Phil Kessel off the scoresheet, as Kessel entered Wednesday night’s game pointless in the last six contests against Detroit. His last point, an assist, came in the 2014 Winter Classic.
Kessel was not to be denied much longer. He tapped in his 15th of the season on a feed from James van Riemsdyk at 5:09 of the third period to even things up at one aside.
That was all Toronto was able to muster, as Detroit continued to pepper Reimer as they did the entire tilt, totaling 40 shots to Toronto’s 16 after 60 minutes.
“You’ve got to give Reimer props,” Howard said of his masked counterpart’s stellar play. “He played really well for the Leafs tonight and it happens once in a while.”
It took a shootout to decide the outcome of this tilt after overtime solved nothing, and though Datsyuk scored for Detroit, Tyler Bozak and Santorelli delivered for Toronto to seal the victory.
“We’ve got to be better at it,” Babcock said of the shootout. “We’ve got to score for Howie and Howie’s got to make saves for us. That’s just the reality of the situation. We try to treat it like a specialty team, we try to go through it and be as prepared as we can. No one did anything that surprised us. Bottom line is, you’ve got to find ways to score goals in those situations, and you’ve got to find ways to stop them.”
Detroit will have its opportunity at revenge Saturday night as the Red Wings face Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, but first, they host the Florida Panthers Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.