It was an entertaining game, for the most part, as one should expect when Original Six rivals play. It flowed nicely, wasn’t broken up by a lot of penalty calls, and even contained a milestone goal by Brett Hull, but the Red Wings surely won’t be happy with the outcome. The Toronto Maple Leafs won by a score of 5-2. Even less will the Wings and their fans like this bit of information: Steve Yzerman left the game hurt late in the second period and did not return for the third.
The game got off to a quick start, with both teams skating hard and trying to generate offense. Manny Legace made some dramatic saves to keep the game scoreless through most of the first, but his Leafs counterpart, Ed Belfour, wasn’t so lucky in the opening frame.
Just 20 seconds before the end of the period, Hull made his move. He carried the puck into the Toronto zone himself, then dropped it back for Mathieu Schneider. Schneider sent the puck back over to Hull, who cut to the front of the net, dragging the puck and luring Belfour over to the side before backhanding a high shot over the goalie. It was Hull’s 731st career goal, tying him with Marcel Dionne for third place on the all-time scorers list.
A slight defensive lapse let the Leafs tie up the game early in the second. Brian Marchment was able to carry the puck through the Red Wings’ zone. Jiri Fischer wasn’t able to get to him in time, and Marchment’s shot deflected just off Legace’s stick and into the net.
A very quick pair of goals moved Toronto into the lead late in the second. First Tie Domi redirected Robert Reichel’s shot from the right side boards. Then just 23 seconds later, Gary Roberts brought the puck into Detroit’s zone, then took a hard shot which beat Legace just underneath the catching glove.
Detroit made a nearly identical play just over a minute later to get back within one goal. Yzerman made a pass to spring Brendan Shanahan, whose hard shot went right through Belfour.
The Red Wings came on strong for the third, trying to get that tying goal, but Belfour was solid, and another quick pair of Toronto goals late in the period put the game out of reach. Roberts made a sharp clearing pass to send Mats Sundin in all alone ahead of Nicklas Lidstrom. Sundin’s speed brought him right to the front of the goal crease, where he backhanded a high shot into the net.
Rookie Matthew Stajan finished the game up for the Leafs by banging the puck across the goal line after Joe Nieuwendyk centered it from behind the net.
Detroit outshot Toronto by a count of 31 to 24. The Red Wings will return home for their next game, Monday evening against the Los Angeles Kings.
Yzerman’s injury was called a groin strain by team officials, but details were not readily available…. Dominik Hasek played backup this game. Curtis Joseph cleared waivers Friday and has been assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins. It’s got to feel awful to Cujo, but it’s really the least the Wings can do for their AHL affiliate, considering that all the best Griffins’ skaters are here covering for injured players.