TORONTO – It was the first dozen minutes that did in the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit dominated the Maple Leafs for most of Saturday’s 4-3 loss at Air Canada Centre, but it was three Toronto goals before the game was 12 minutes old that left the Wings shaking their heads after the game.
“I’m not happy with the way we started the game,”said 41-year-old defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom.“We weren’t on our toes at all. We were sitting back and they were coming with speed and we didn’t respond to that.”
Detroit battled back and outshot Toronto 30-8 over the final two periods to tie the game early in the third period, but couldn’t quite complete the comeback.
“It’s disappointing, especially the way the team responded being behind 3-0,” added Lidstrom. “We got going and back into the game, but we just gave it away.”
The Leafs got up early on goals by Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and David Steckel–all as a result of defensive miscues. Kessel’s came on a penalty shot after being hooked by Ian White on a breakway, Phaneuf’s was right off the draw on a power-play and Steckel scored off an odd-man rush.
“They were gifts, really,”said Kronwall, whose team is 6-8 now when trailing after the first period.“They’re a hell of a team over there as well of course. At the same time if you look at all the goals, they were pretty much breakdowns on our part.”
Head coach Mike Babcock called a timeout after Toronto’s third goal at 11:36 to settle his team down and the move worked. Detroit outshot Toronto 6-2 the rest of the period and 14-2 in the second, scoring a pair of goals by Todd Bertuzzi and Niklas Kronwall, while goalie Jimmy Howard kept the Leafs off the board in the second.
“I thought we got real porous there for a period time in the first period, gave up too many chances and we ended up chasing the game,”Babcock said.“That was un-Red Wing-like. You can’t win every night in the league playing like that.”
Jiri Hudler tied it up 4:32 into the third and Detroit continued to push the play, but the comeback stalled when Joffrey Lupul scored the game winner at 7:10 after he picked up a failed clearing attempt from behind the net by Henrik Zetterberg.
“The fourth goal we fanned on it again,”Babcock said.“You can call it turnover, you can call it whatever you want. We didn’t execute coming out of our zone. He just going to rim it and put it past him, but he fanned on it and it was in our net.”
Johan Franzen had a glorious chance from the slot to even the game in the final minute, but was stymied by Jonas Gustavsson, who won his third start in a row.
The Wings outshot the Leafs 16-6 in the final frame and 40-18 overall.
“We had the puck, let’s be honest, three quarters of the night,”Babcock said.“We dominated tons of tonight’s game and you could leave hear saying‘Geez, we played real good.’ Well, no we didn’t. We gave up too many chances.
“We had great opportunity. But the hockey gods treat you right–you don’t start on time you don’t win that often in this league.”