Fans who watched Saturday’s matchup between the Leafs and Red Wings had plenty of reasons to cheer, regardless of allegiance.
Those who made the trek from Detroit to watch their team edge Toronto 3-2 took comfort in the Wings’ climb into third place in the Atlantic Division, enhancing the chances of extending the team’s playoff qualification streak to 25 years.
Meanwhile, the hometown supporters couldn’t be too disappointed either. With the NHL schedule winding down – mercifully for Toronto – the regulation loss keeps the Leafs closer to the basement of the standings (pending the outcome of the Oilers-Flames game, at the time of this article), improving their lottery odds.
And despite the loss, William Nylander thrilled the 19,371 patrons at Air Canada Centre with his explosive speed and wizardry.
With the Leafs trailing 2-0 in the second period, Nylander had a highlight reel assist, showing extreme poise and patience with the puck before centring the puck to Colin Greening for a tap-in goal.
“I try to find open ice, and create ice for myself. It was a great battle by Greening to get it to the back of the net,” Nylander said after the game.
The Wings restored their two-goal cushion in the final frame when Kyle Quincey rifled the puck past Garret Sparks in the Leafs net. With Sparks on the bench and time winding down in regulation, Nylander one-timed a pass from Nazem Kadri to keep the game close.
However the Leafs could not get the equalizer, their record falling to 28-39-11.
Coach Mike Babcock was pleased with Nylander’s effort, following a stretch in which the player had struggled, particularly away from the puck.
“I thought he had some really good looks tonight, and I thought he was competitive,” Babcock said of the youngster. “The biggest thing is, to want the puck. If he goes and plays without it, he’ll have it so much. He made some passes tonight that guys couldn’t handle, but I thought he was good tonight.”
Brad Richards – on the power play – and Mike Green had first period goals for Detroit. Jimmy Howard made 32 saves for the win.