Red Wings fall to Canadiens despite dramatic comeback
In a wild affair, the Red Wings dug a huge hole against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday, climbed out and fell right back in, losing 5-3.
The Wings erased a three-goal deficit in the first 10:44 of the third period. But, as has often been the case this season, defensive failures, especially deficiencies in their deployment schemes, and some dicey calls by the referees were costly.
And, once again, the greatest expense came in the third period, after they had fought back valiantly to even the score.
"Anytime you give up three and come back with three in the third, you've got to find a way to win," Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
"Obviously, the puck went in our net way too often. You can't give up five on the road and expect to win."
Regardless, the Red Wings maintained their strong position in the wild-card race in the Eastern Conference.
With the Blue Jackets idle and the Maple Leafs losing to the Jets, the Red Wings remained three points ahead of Columbus and four ahead of Toronto, which is now tied with the Devils. The Wings have played one game more than the Blue Jackets, one fewer than the Maple Leafs and the same number as the Devils.
Saturday, the Canadiens seemed to benefit from two calls, and on their fourth and fifth goals, after the Red Wings resurrected their game.
On the fourth, as the Montreal forward Brian Gionta entered the zone, before he eventually scored, he skated in backwards over the blue line. By rule, the play is onside only if the player is in full control of the puck.
To the naked eye, the vigorous onside signal from the linesman appeared questionable. Replays showed Gionta was in less than full control.
Then, on the fifth goal, Alex Galchenyuk skated directly into the crease, stood next to the Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson and bumped him slightly. That all happened just before Tomas Plekanec fired a shot that deflected off Galchenyuk's arm, and in.
It appeared that the referees should have disallowed the goal for either contact with the goalkeeper or obstructing him.
While the officials huddled and then consulted with the video reviewers in Toronto, contact and obstruction are not reviewable issues. The officials likely reviewed whether Galchenyuk had illegally directed the puck.
Gustavsson, about as soft-spoken and mild-mannered as any of the Red Wings, was demonstratively upset on the ice, banging his stick and gesturing to the officials.
"He (Galchenyuk) was just standing next to me, pretty much, there, on the goal line," he said, after the game. "I feel like there's no way, for me. I can't even move.
"Sometimes they don't have to push you or bump you. If he is standing there, a guy who ways over 200 pounds, and it hits him… I don't know. If that's a goal, then there's a lot of goals that's not going to be called off, I think."
Despite allowing five goals, Gustavsson made some huge stops and was brilliantly acrobatic at times.
But the Canadiens' Carey Price also was strong, managing to shut down the Red Wings for two periods. The Wings had a 15-4 shot advantage in the second, but failed to score.
The Red Wings pressed heavily at times, and when the puck did not go in, the Canadiens were in full flight towards Gustavsson.
"I thought we had the puck lots. I thought we had it rolling around in their zone lots," Babcock said. "They'd flip it out and come down in the zone and score. Lots of good shifts ended in goals against.
"We didn't give up tons of shots, but we gave up too many opportunities."
Gionta scored twice for the Canadiens, and Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival and Max Pacioretty each tallied once.
It was the 39th goal of the season for Pacioretty, who played a season for Michigan before turning professional.
"Sometimes you've got the breaks with you, sometimes it goes against you," Niklas Kronwall said. "Tonight, we got impatient there at the end for whatever reason. They got a lucky break on the fourth one and then we gave up some odd-man rushes.
"I don't think we gave up. We give it all we can. We said before the third started, 'Just stay patient, try to get the first one and we'll be fine.' We stuck with it, came back 3-3 and then unfortunately we gave it away."
All of the Red Wings’ scoring came in the first half of the third period, when after an aggressive second period yielded no goals, they suddenly took control of the game.
Pavel Datsyuk (16th) and Kronwall (eighth) scored for the Red Wings, and Luke Glendening garnered his first NHL goal on the day he signed a three-year contract extension.
Kronwall also got his 40th assist on Datysuk's goal.
Johan Franzen got two assists, for 24 on the season.
"You're never happy when you lose a game," Gustavsson said. "We went out there and tried to get two points.