The Red Wings played a hard game, as they always do against this Original Six rival, but the Toronto Maple Leafs, desperately fighting for playoff positioning, were able to get past them 5-4 in overtime.
The Red Wings took an early lead, just over a minute into the game. Tomas Holmstrom passed the puck up to Igor Larionov, who carried it into the Toronto zone, deked between two Leafs’ defensemen, and placed a well-aimed wrist shot past goaltender Corey Schwab.
The Maple Leafs came back just a few minutes later. Jonas Hoglund got the puck out from a tangle along the boards and snapped a fast wrist shot past Manny Legace.
Detroit regained the lead only twenty-five seconds later, when Sergei Fedorov flew up the left wing side with the puck and took a hard shot from just outside the blue line. The puck slid into the net before Schwab could get his right leg pad down.
Again, Toronto got even quickly, this time on a breakaway goal by Alexander Mogilny. The Leafs then broke the pattern by taking the lead for themselves with just under two minutes left in the period. Aki Berg shot the puck from the left point, and the rebound bounced away from Legace and landed by the side of the net, where Darcy Tucker was able to tap it into the net.
The Leafs concentrated mainly on defense in the second period, keeping the Red Wings from getting the puck into the zone, or at least forcing them to shoot it in and then chase after it. Schwab played like a completely different goalie, blocking shots that no one would have expected him to block, and keeping the Wings from tying the game. Toronto increased their lead at the very end of the period, when Bryan McCabe fired a hard shot from the right wing side. Michael Renberg, waiting in front of the net, got just enough of his stick on the puck to redirect it into the net.
Detroit tried to increase their offense in the third period, but Schwab continued to play like a man inspired, and the Wings were unable to score until the period was more than halfway over. Fedorov won a deep-zone faceoff and got the puck back to Brett Hull, who slid the puck along the blue line to Nick Lidstrom. Lidstrom’s shot was deflected by Boyd Devereaux, and the puck then bounced off the defenseman Berg and into the net.
With the momentum from Devereaux’s goal, the Red Wings were able to tie the game moments later. Brendan Shanahan went to the front of the net, stick on the ice and waiting. Meanwhile, Hull passed the puck up the middle to Mathieu Dandenault, who faked a shot then passed to Shanahan, who flipped the puck past Schwab.
Legace and Schwab both made some huge saves in the final moments of the game to necessitate overtime. Legace especially was great, making an amazing stop on Mats Sundin all alone in front of the net with less than a minute remaining.
Unfortunately, Legace wasn’t so lucky against Sundin in the overtime. A two on one rush up the ice gave Sundin his opportunity. Steve Duchesne did manage to take away the option to pass the puck, but Sundin put the puck in high over Legace’s shoulder.
Shots on net were thirty-five to twenty-six in Detroit’s favor. The Red Wings’ next game will be the start of their final West Coast trip of the regular season- they will play Anaheim on Wednesday night, then Los Angeles on Thursday and San Jose on Saturday, before returning to the Joe.
Toronto’s win tonight clinched them a playoff spot. So far, Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto are all guaranteed to make the playoffs in the East, while Detroit has the only guaranteed spot in the West.