DENVER -- Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist took everybody by surprise with his goal Saturday at the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at sold-out Coors Field.
"Everyone was scratching their head and wondering how that went in," Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader said after the Red Wings' 5-3 victory against the Colorado Avalanche. "Even the [referee] had a delayed reaction; [he] didn't realize it went. Just a great heads-up play, a great shot. A backhander that went top-shelf."
The Red Wings trailed 2-1 early in the third period when Nyquist took a pass from Riley Sheahan at the bottom of the right circle. But he did not appear to be in a dangerous scoring position; Nyquist had his back to Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and was being guarded closely by defenseman Tyson Barrie.
But Nyquist saw a possibility and took it, firing a rising backhand shot that totally stumped Varlamov and tied the score.
"Just one of those where I was lucky it went in," Nyquist said. "I was just trying to catch the goalie a little bit off-guard and throw it up high."
Not so fast, said linemate Tomas Tatar, who got the second assist with some good work down low in the attacking zone.
"I was coming off the boards and trying to get to the front of the net, and I saw the puck go top shelf. It was just an amazing shot," Tatar said. "He's a real skilled player, and he deserved a goal like this for sure."
The highlight-reel goal woke Detroit from a slumber that had seen it manage four shots in the second period.
"It was a back-and-forth check-fest," Nyquist said of the scoreless second period. "It was nice to get one early [in the third period] to get some energy."
Abdelkader, Brad Richards and Darren Helm, into an empty net, fed off that energy with goals of their own late in the third period that gave the Red Wings the victory.
But it was Nyquist's goal, his 15th of the season, which everyone wanted to talk about after the game, especially because it was his first in 12 games, a slump that stretched to Feb. 4.
"It was a big goal and it was a nice goal," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "He's that kind of a special player. He doesn't need much to create chances, and you saw that there."
The goal took some weight off Nyquist's shoulders, but he seemed nearly as pleased that Tatar also scored. Tatar had gone eight games without a goal before he opened the scoring with a bit of perseverance.
"It's fun to score a goal in a game like this, no question," Nyquist said. "We haven't been putting the puck in the net as much as we should, so it was nice to get one and hopefully this is something that can get us both going."
Tatar said he knows he will score more often if he applies himself like he did on the game-opening goal.
"We won a faceoff and [the puck] went through a few places, and then I got the first bounce and I hit the post on the side and then went around and tried to wrap it," he said. "The puck still didn't go in, so finally the puck found me again for the third time and somehow it went in."
When Tatar scored his 17th of the season 5:07 into the game, he hoped it would be a harbinger of better things for him and his line, which includes Nyquist and Sheahan. He had no idea how well things would turn out.
"I feel for me and Gustav; they were big goals for us," Tatar said. "We just weren't as confident, we were squeezing the stick too much. I was really excited [when I scored]. This game was huge for us."