ANN ARBOR – Hindsight is always 20-20.
And after suffering another shootout loss, the Wings that took part in the skills competition to decide the game are certainly thinking twice about how it ended.
The Toronto Maple Leafs outscored Detroit 2-1 in the shootout to take the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, 3-2, on a bitter cold and snowy Wednesday afternoon.
All three Wings shooters tried to stickhandle their way in on goal, while two of the three Toronto shooters decided to shoot the puck and wound up scoring.
“It’s tough to settle (the puck) down,” said Daniel Cleary, who wasn’t one of the three shooters for Detroit. “It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced stickhandling when there’s snow on the ice it just affects it.”
Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozek each scored in the shootout for the Maple Leafs, while Pavel Datsyuk was the lone Wing to score.
“The snow made it tough to handle the puck,” said Todd Bertuzzi, who also wasn’t a shooter. “The Datsyuks are the ones that can handle the puck. The rest of us are just trying to push it up there, try to get our chances with shots.”
Tomas Tatar and Daniel Alfredsson both were unable to get shots off on the shootout for Detroit.
“Looking back I probably should have shot the puck,” Alfredsson said. “I thought I had control, but the blade is so cold and you don’t the grip on the tape at all. My shot I thought I had it but it just glides away from my blade because it’s frozen. It made it a little bit harder. Some guys handled it better than I did.
“I tried to stickhandle, Pavel did and Tatar never really got a chance because the puck started bouncing on him,” Alfredsson added. “And (Toronto) found a way with two goals.”
Tatar began losing the puck just over the blue line and never got a shot off.
“I didn’t expect it to be that bad,” Tatar said. “I knew it was going to be tougher. I noticed it when I was on the blue line, but you already have your mind set what you’re going to do so you kind of can’t change your mind halfway down. I wasn’t good. I admit it I disappointed the fans. I could have been the hero and the fans deserve better. I didn’t even get a shot.”
The Wings fall to 1-7 in the shootout. Their only win in the shootout came against Toronto.
Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader scored in regulation for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard made 24 saves.
James Van Riemsdyk and Bozak had goals for Toronto and Jonathan Bernier stopped 41 shots.
“For sure (the conditions were tough), look at Tats when he came in and the puck was bouncing all over the place,” said Brendan Smith, who had two assists. “Maybe they made the right decision shooting early and taking that aspect away from it. They made a good decision. The ice was tough, but you see Pav still stickhandling with it so it could be done.”
It was the third Winter Classic that was decided after regulation and the fifth time and home team was unable to come away with a win.
“I thought our guys enjoyed it,” said Wings coach Mike Babcock, who was behind the bench in the Wings’ 6-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in 2009. “I never talk to my team after we lose ever, but I did today. I just said you should be proud. You’ve got an off (Thursday), enjoy your family. I asked you not to get carried away (Wednesday) night, so here’s an opportunity to be thankful for the experience. I said it yesterday, life is about moments. You only remember moments. You don’t remember everything. This is one of those things.”
In overtime, Henrik Zetterberg had a step on the Leafs defense at the blue line, but the horn sounded to signal the midway point of the five-minute period which meant both teams had to change ends.
“I knew it before,” Zetterberg said. “We didn’t have much time, but when I came there I had no idea and the buzzer went. That’s the rules. Nothing you can do about it. We knew the rules.”
Toronto took the lead five minutes into the third period.
Bozak won the faceoff from Datsyuk in the Wings’ zone and it went to the point to Dion Phaneuf, who flung a shot on goal. Bozak then raced to the front of the net and got a piece of the shot to deflect it past Howard.
It was the second goal the Leafs scored that started with a faceoff in the offensive zone.
Abdelkader tied things up with 5:32 left to play in regulation.
Smith pinched in at the blue line and was able to backhand a pass to Abdelkader as he skated by the net. Abdelkader wasted no time and backhanded the pass by Bernier to tie things up.
Alfredsson opened the scoring with just under seven minutes to go in the second period. Smith hit Zetterberg with a pass out of the zone that led to a 2-on-1 with Jake Gardiner on defense for the Maple Leafs and then feathered a cross-ice pass that deflected in off the inside of Alfredsson’s right skate to beat Bernier.
Van Riemsdyk tied the game just as a Maple Leafs power play had expired, batting a puck out of midair to beat an unsuspecting Howard with 37 seconds left in the second period.
The Wings were 0-for-4 on the power play.