DETROIT – The mighty Detroit Red Wings had a record in sight, entering the third period with a two-goal lead against the lowly Los Angeles Kings.
Los Angeles had other plans. Brad Stuart scored the go-ahead goal at 13:07 of the third, helping the Kings rally for a 5-3 win over Detroit on Thursday night. “It’s always great when you can come back and win a game in the third period,” Stuart said. “But it’s much better when you can do it on the road against the best team in the league.”
Kris Draper was unaware the Red Wings blew a chance to match a franchise record with a ninth straight win, but he was upset about the way they missed out on the opportunity.
“I care because of the way we lost,” Draper said. “You know over the course of an 82-game schedule, things are going to happen, but when you’re up 3-1 you have to find a way to bury hockey clubs. We didn’t do that.
“We started making mistakes we hadn’t for a majority of the year, taking untimely penalties and they capitalized.”
Alexander Frolov tied it in the third on a power-play goal and Stuart put the Kings ahead with an extra skater.
The NHL-leading Red Wings have a double-digit advantage over the rest of the league, but they were vulnerable against a team that entered the game with the fewest points.
Kings coach Marc Crawford said the surprising win wasn’t a fluke.
“We played very well all night, and we deserved to win,” Crawford said. “We were a much better team tonight than Detroit.
“That’s no disrespect to them – everyone knows that’s a great team – but we really challenged them.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock agreed.
“Their team won more battles and got more pucks to the net,” Babcock said. “Their power play was better than our penalty kill and their penalty kill was better than our power play.
“Every once in a while in life you need to be reminded. We know you can’t just come to the rink and put your jersey on. You’ve got to outwork the opposition.”
The Red Wings appeared set to coast to another victory when Henrik Zetterberg scored a second goal – his 33rd of the season – at 13:05 of the second.
But Los Angeles scored on four of its first eight shots in the final period against Chris Osgood, who started the game with an NHL-best 1.84 goals-against average.
Osgood finished with 20 saves and matched a season high by allowing five goals.
Jason LaBarbera had 26 stops for the Kings, who hadn’t won in Detroit since Feb. 18, 2000.
Tomas Kopecky scored 49 seconds into the game to give Detroit the lead. Former Red Wing Kyle Calder tied it midway through the first period before Zetterberg put Detroit ahead again at 18:51 of the first.
Patrick O’Sullivan scored 39 seconds into the final period, Frolov tied it several minutes later and Stuart gave the Kings their first lead of the night. Anze Kopitar essentially sealed the win, giving Los Angeles a two-goal lead with 5-plus minutes left.
“It’s a game of momentum,” Zetterberg said. “When you have it on your side, it’s a lot easier to play than not having it.
“We have to put it behind us. We have two big games at Toronto on Saturday and then come back and have Anaheim here (Sunday) at the Joe.”
Notes: Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall (left shoulder) was able to participate in some drills Thursday morning, taking a step toward coming back. … The Kings put D Rob Blake (ankle) on injured reserve, and recalled goaltender Dan Cloutier from the AHL. … The Wings fell to 28-3-1 when leading after two periods and Los Angeles improved to 4-25-2 when trailing after two. … Former Detroit coach Dave Lewis is a Kings assistant. … Zetterberg has as many goals (33) as he had during last season.