A huge victory occurred for the Detroit Red Wings in front of a sold out 50,095 fans at the NHL Stadium Series. Their late offensive rush in the third period sealed them to a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field Saturday night. Detroit earned a second straight win and one they will never forget.
The Red Wings found themselves back outside for the third time in their franchise history. The only difference from 2014 is that it was against one of their most hated rivals in the National Hockey League. Their victory on Tuesday had them confident coming into Colorado where the matchup against the Avalanche was higher than ever.
Though they’re no longer playing in the same conference, two points were on the line that could get them closer to gaining back the third spot in the Atlantic Division. Before the game got underway, former American Idol contestant Amber Riley sang the national anthem that included a flyover by two United States Air Force F-16s.
As the game got underway, the Red Wings were struggling to get up to speed with the Avs but hung in there during the first few minutes. As they moved the play into the Colorado end, Tomas Tatar took point with a move around the net of Semyon Varlamov where he tried to go for a wrap around but was denied. He soon got the rebound where a wrist shot scored Detroit a 1-0 lead and Tatar’s 17th of the season.
They didn’t celebrate for long as the Avs evened things at 7:44 with Nathan McKinnon scoring one from the short side lifting the puck over Petr Mrazek’s ear for his 20th. Detroit tried to regain the lead on their opening power play but the powerful Colorado PK unit dealt with the two-minute penalty. After stopping a 3 on 2 play by Detroit, the Avalanche counter attacked the Detroit end faking Mrazek to lay him out giving Tyson Barrie his 11th.
Detroit gained a huge opportunity with 5:11 left as Cody McLeod got caught hi sticking Kyle Quincey taking a double minor for it. They showed plenty of effort in the final two minutes of the four-minute man advantage but were left empty. Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog and Detroit veteran Pavel Datsyuk got into it as Landeskog held onto his stick. They were both sent to the box with Datsyuk going for roughing. The teams went 4 on 4 to close out the first with Colorado the better through 20 minutes outshooting the Red Wings 14-11.
Colorado came out strong in the second taking three shots in the first few minutes gaining even more time with the puck on a Detroit penalty. DeKeyser went to the box for a hi stick but despite the time down a man, the Red Wings knocked it out to keep them within reach of leveling. The two trade off power plays with no leverage going toward anyone. The period came to a close with both taking four shots with a goal separating the teams.
Detroit got things back to square with Colorado 1:27 into the third period with Ericsson doing work near the boards. He got the puck loose for Tatar who got it around to Gustav Nyquist for the Swede fire a backhander through Varlamov for his 15th. “It was a big goal and it was a nice goal,” said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg about Nyquist. “He’s a special player and he doesn’t need much to create chances and saw that there and it was pretty good backhand there.”
As time fell off the clock, the wind increased in the confines of Coors Field. The swirling wind began to pull up the cotton lining that was made to look like snow and began to fly all over the field and above the rink. When play resumed, the Red Wings immediately earned a power play before the half ended due to windy conditions.
The teams changed ends at the ten-minute mark with the Red Wings gaining the advantage of playing with the wind on their backs during offensive plays. Four minutes in, the Red Wings had their fast skater in Darren Helm taking control of the puck where his backhanded pass to Justin Abdelkader set up the Michigan native with his 15th and the lead.
Colorado struck back 24 seconds later on a bad setup on defense for Detroit as Alex Tanguay scored on an open glove side of Mrazek tying the game with 6:18 left on the clock. The final minutes became the most intense of the game where anyone could become the hero. With just a minute to go it was Brad Richards scoring the game winner as he went around the net scoring the goal to take a 4-3 lead with 60 seconds to go.
Avs coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov out for six men to attack the Red Wings and tie the game back before it was too late.
It became the big disappointment for them as Helm took off with what he had left to score the empty netter with 20 seconds left in regulation. When the horn sounded, it left the Red Wings elated and the Avs completely devastated. “It’s always fun when your team can go out there and get victories,” said Howard. “Sometimes with the hype of the game and leading up to it you can lose track that the game means something so it’s great that the guys were able to do that tonight.”
Mrazek did plenty out on ice despite the extreme change in weather on the field. The 25 year old earned his 24th victory stopping 23 shots from Colorado in his first outdoor game. “He did great,” Howard said about his teammate. “Its one of these games that where anything can happen and he did a great job out there tonight.
With the Red Wings sitting on more than just a two game winning streak they’ll try and keep it up when they continue their road trip to play against the Dallas Stars. “It was a big two points for us and now we just got to move on,” said Zetterberg.