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Leafs Come Up Short Against Red Wings

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Detroit Red Wings need every point and win they can get as they fight to keep an astounding playoff streak alive.

Count two points and another much-needed victory for the club on Saturday evening in Toronto. Jimmy Howard loomed large with 32 saves as the Red Wings held on to beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in the final meetings between the clubs this season.

The victory pushed the Wings (91 points) past the Boston Bruins for third spot in the Atlantic Division. Playoff participants in 24 straight seasons, Detroit is jostling with Boston (one game in hand), Philadelphia (two games in hand), and the New York Islanders (two games in hand) for a spot in the post-season, one club likely to miss out.

Brad Richards, Jonathan Ericsson, and Kyle Quincey scored for Detroit.

Colin Greening and William Nylander found the back of the net for Toronto and Garret Sparks added 23 saves for the Leafs, still tied with the Edmonton Oilers for last in the NHL with 67 points.

Winners on Friday night at home against Minnesota, the Red Wings raced out to a 2-0 first period lead.

Coach Jeff Blashill said before the game. ``If we don't win we won't get in.''

Richards opened the scoring by snapping a 10-game goal drought with his 10th marker this season. With Detroit on a power-play the 35-year-old fired a shot through Sparks from a spot in the left faceoff circle.

Sparks has struggled in his first NHL season, owning an .898 save percentage heading into his 15th NHL appearance.

He was beaten by a point shot from Ericsson less than 10 minutes after the goal from Richards, increasing the Detroit lead to two. Sparks was fighting plenty of traffic on the play and appeared to lock legs briefly with teammate Morgan Rielly, impeding his ability to make the save.

He appealed to referee Greg Kimmerly shortly after the goal, believing, it appeared, that he was interfered with.

Down 2-0, Toronto trailed after the first period for the 30th time this season.

The Leafs rallied early into the second, scoring less than three minutes into the period on Greening's fourth goal of the year. The goal was spurred by the efforts of 19-year-old Nylander, who picked up his eighth point in 18 NHL games on the play.

With the puck on his tape, Nylander wheeled from side to side and through the slot of the Detroit zone before firing a pass from right to left through the Red Wings crease. The pass pinged off by the skate of a Red Wings defender before it was tapped in by Greening.

Things turned chippy between the Original-Six rivals a short while later.

His helmet shoved off by Detroit centre Luke Glendening behind the net in the offensive zone, Leafs 25-year-old pivot Nazem Kadri raced after Glendening and cross-checked him in the shoulder and head area. Kadri was dealt a two-minute penalty and then given a word or two by Red Wings veteran Darren Helm a few minutes later.

Kadri was fined $5,000 on Friday for diving, citations he vehemently disagreed with prior to the game. ``I didn't agree with it nor did I like it,'' he said.

Starting on consecutive nights after a 20-save performance in victory on Friday, Howard was big for the Wings as the Leafs made their push to even the score late in the second.

Serving as the backup to Petr Mrazek for most of the season, Howard stopped 12 of 13 shots in the period before coming up with a couple key stops early in the third. The 32-year-old's best save of the night came on a Kadri rebound attempt less than a minute into the finale frame and 46 seconds before Quincey wired a shot past the left pad of Sparks to up the Detroit lead back to two.

Nylander scored his fifth NHL goal with an empty-net, Detroit hanging on for the one-goal victory.

Though now holding tentative control of a playoff position, the Red Wings are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

The Leafs recalled 20-year-old Frederik Gauthier to replace an injured Milan Michalek prior to the game. Acquired in a February trade which sent Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa, Michalek was shut down for the season because of a knee injury.

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