In his career, Brad Richards has played for five different NHL franchises. He has also played in five different outdoor games, and now, a season removed from winning the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks, Richards scored his 40th career game-winning goal in the Detroit Red Wings’ 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at Coors Field in Denver.
As of late, the Red Wings and coach Jeff Blashill have been relying on scoring from their star players. Guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have had to carry the load for a team that ranks 23rd in goals scored out of 30 teams. The Wings would need their secondary scorers to step up not only in this game, but down the stretch as they look for their 25th straight playoff appearance.
That’s exactly what they got.
Tomas Tatar, who had not registered a point in his last eight games before Saturday, started off the scoring just over five minutes into the game. Tatar took a shot off of a wraparound that was initially saved by Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but the rebound went right back to the stick of Tatar who snuck one in short-side.
That lead was short-lived however, as Wings defensemen Alexey Marchenko was caught pinching in the offensive zone. This led to a two-on-one that saw Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon send a perfectly placed wrister past Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek to tie the game.
Avs defenseman Tyson Barrie would give Colorado the lead late in the first period with his 11th goal of the season. Assists on the Barrie goal came from Blake Comeau and Mikhail Grigorenko.
Though there was no scoring in the second period, there were a few penalties. The Wings drew penalties on a high stick from defenseman Danny Dekeyser and a too many men on the ice call that was served by Andreas Athanasiou with 6:18 to play in the second. The Avs took one penalty in the second stanza of play when Chris Bigras took a seat in the box for holding the stick of Wings forward Luke Glendening.
The third period, however, was all scoring. A total of five goals came in the final 20 minutes of play as the Red Wings got more scoring from the aforementioned secondary players.
Just 1:27 into the second period, Gustav Nyquist put an end to an 11-game goalless streak. Riley Sheahan and Tatar picked up assists on Nyquist’s beautiful spin-o-rama shot that went over the shoulder of Varlamov.
— NHL (@NHL) February 28, 2016
Midway through the final period of play, former Spartan Justin Abdelkader took a centering pass from Darren Helm that the Colorado defense may not have been ready for. Abdelkader tucked in his 15th goal of the season, giving the Wings a lead that would only last 14 seconds.
With 6:58 to play in the game, Alex Tanguay scored to tie the game at three with just his fourth goal of the season when Mrazek was knocked down by some contact. Tanguay had a wide open net, and the 36 year old veteran did not miss.
Then, just as a fourth straight overtime game was looming over the heads of the Red Wings’ players, Richards scored gave the Wings a 4-3 lead with exactly one minute to play. A Kronwall shot from the point produced a rebound that fell right on the stick of Richards, who sent the puck past Varlamov.
— NHL (@NHL) February 28, 2016
Helm added an empty net goal for good measure to give the Red Wings the victory in the latest chapter of this once-great NHL rivalry.
This win pulled the Wings within one point of the Boston Bruins for the third spot in the Atlantic Conference. They were able to do it on a night where the superstars didn’t score; they will need to have more games like this if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs.