A loud, bipartisan crowd set a lively atmosphere as the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs renewed their rivalry.
Saturday's event at Little Caesars Arena featured a thrilling third period as the Wings' fourth line injected energy just when it seemed the Leafs had grabbed momentum. The Wings pushed, but the Leafs used their depth to come away with a 5-2 victory.
The Leafs are considered a Stanley Cup contender while the Wings are projected to miss the playoffs. But the Wings came into the game having just beaten divisional rival Montreal, while the Leafs were on a three-game losing streak.
Jacob de la Rose scored in the first period, but Leafs fans were loud enough to make Nicholas Shore's answer sound like a home goal. The Leafs took a 3-1 lead midway through the third period but de la Rose's line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader answered with a goal 24 seconds later. The Leafs' fourth line countered, with Dmytro Timashov threading a pass that defenseman Jake Muzzin redirected to put the Leafs up by two. It grew to three when Trevor Moore scored an empty-net goal with 2:13 to go in regulation on Toronto's 40th shot.
The Leafs were smarting after losing 7-3 at home to division rival Tampa Bay. When he was with Detroit, Toronto coach Mike Babcock used to describe facing a team coming off such a lopsided loss as "having a tiger by the tail."
The Wings played a good first period, creating chances and holding off the Leafs through back-to-back power plays, the latter thanks to the hard work of Luke Glendening, Christoffer Ehn and Abdelkader, who did a great job disrupting. The Leafs carried play in the second period, even when the Wings went on a power play.
Jimmy Howard was 29.5 seconds from being the hero of the second period when he gambled and lost. Howard skated out of his crease toward the left circle in an effort to get to a puck that Timashov had fired into the zone. Howard threw himself toward the puck as he realized Ilya Mikheyev was closing in, to no avail. Mikheyev got there first, and fired into an open net for a 2-1 lead. It was too bad, because Howard had a great period otherwise, holding off 10 Leafs shot.
The Wings went up 1-0 less than four minutes into the first period. Abdelkader worked the puck behind Toronto's net. Patrik Nemeth got a piece of it, with de la Rose was staked out in from of Frederik Andersen. The puck came to de la Rose, who fought off defenders and managed to whack the puck even as he fell forward, scoring his first goal of the season. The Leafs' fourth line made it 1-1 midway through the first period when Timashov fed Shore for a backhand. Helm scored off a rush at 9:35 of the third period for his second of the season.
The Wings now head west for three games at Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.