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Red Wings top Maple Leafs in Winter Classic preview

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO - Daniel Alfredsson and Pavel Datsyuk scored in the shootout, and the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night in a preview of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Alfredsson and Datsyuk beat Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier in the tiebreaker, and the Maple Leafs went 0-for-2 against Jonas Gustavsson. It was Detroit's first win in seven shootouts this season and the Red Wings' first in 12 tiebreakers dating back to last season.

"It was great," Gustavsson said. "It was a long time ago for our team and it felt really good to get that win in the shootout. Especially for myself too because I don't think I had my best game tonight so it was fun. At least we were able to step up there and get the win."

Alfredsson, the former captain of the rival Ottawa Senators who signed with Detroit as a free agent in July, was booed by Maple Leafs fans throughout the game.

"It fires you up a little bit extra at best, there's no question," Alfredsson said. "It was nice that [Gustavsson] saves the first one then I score and put a little more pressure on them going into the second round. … We're in desperate need of points and getting that extra one, it's a good feeling."

The next time these two Original Six rivals see each other will be Jan. 1, 2014, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., at the Winter Classic.

Their first meeting of the season should fuel the intensity for that game.

"I think this rivalry's growing and growing. It's going to continue to grow," Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson said. "It's going to be there and they're a team that's close by. Any time you have an organization or a team that's close, you always have that playoff-type feeling. I thought that game had it tonight once we started playing the way we knew we could."

Clarkson gave the Maple Leafs a 4-3 lead at 8:32 of the third period when he put a loose puck in the crease past Gustavsson. The scramble at the front of the net happened when Jay McClement's shot bounced off the goalie and stayed in front of the net. Clarkson pushed the puck underneath Gustavsson for his third goal of the season and 100th in his career.

"I was just reaching to get behind the [defenseman]," Clarkson said. "I think [Nikolai Kulemin] fanned on it in the slot, and I was coming in all excited and I fanned on it. So it was just one of those ones that started hopping and went in."

Detroit's Tomas Tatar tied the game 4-4 with 6:16 remaining when he put a rebound of a Niklas Kronwall shot past Bernier. Tatar beat defenseman John-Michael Liles to the loose puck in front to score his seventh goal of the season.

"I was in a corner and I kind of saw the puck came up and it wasn't a 100-percent puck so I just kind of tried to go to the net," Tatar said. "[Tomas Jurco] threw it there and I was in by myself so I had lots of time."

The Maple Leafs opened the scoring 7:15 into the game. Defenseman Cody Franson intercepted the puck at the point and sent a wrist shot past Gustavsson for his second goal of the season.

But the rest of the period belonged to the Red Wings.

Datsyuk made it 1-1 at 8:57. His 14th goal of the season came when he took a pass from behind the net by rookie forward Riley Sheahan and backhanded the puck between goalie James Reimer's legs. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who missed the past 15 games with a separated shoulder, had the second assist.

"Through all these injuries we've created depth in our organization which is critical to have and it gives you confidence to use them," Babcock said. "I didn't know we could use Riley Sheahan against anybody and now I do. Those are things you've got to see for yourself."

Joakim Andersson gave Detroit a 2-1 lead at 13:18. His sixth goal of the season came on a wraparound; he used his long reach to put the puck past Reimer on the far side.

Tomas Jurco's second of the season at 18:08 gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead. Jurco was alone in front when Sheahan found him with a pass, and Jurco slipped a spinning backhander between Reimer's pads.

Bernier replaced Reimer at the start of the second period.

"I felt that the wraparound goal was a stoppable wraparound and his stick was extended and it hit the heel of his stick and went in the net," coach Randy Carlyle said. "So I made the decision if we got through the period that I was going to put Bernier in."

Reimer finished with nine saves.

"You want that chance to get in there and fight and battle for your teammates and try and get a win," Reimer said. "But obviously Randy had other thoughts, and he's the coach and he's the one who makes those decisions. I just try and stop pucks."

Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf cut the Red Wings' lead to 3-2 at 11:45 of the second period when his one-timer above the faceoff circle beat Gustavsson. Joffrey Lupul found Phaneuf open for his third goal of the season.

Phaneuf nearly had a second goal at 15:13 when he had a wide-open net to shoot at, but Gustavsson scrambled back and made a highlight-reel save with the paddle of his stick.

"The Monster made the best save I'd probably say that's been on me, that's for sure," Phaneuf said of Gustavsson. "I obviously started to put my arms up. I saw the open net, but he made an unbelievable save and that's good for him."

Lupul's 11th goal of the season tied the game 3-3 at 18:24. He took a pass from Phil Kessel along the goal line and put his power-play shot over Gustavsson's shoulder on the short side.

Gustavsson made 19 saves; Bernier stopped 25 shots in relief of Reimer.

"It's disappointing when you lose in a game that you come back and then you're up," Phaneuf said. "But we did a lot of good things to get that point. So we'll take it and move forward. We're disappointed in not getting the extra one, but that's shootouts. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don't."

Both teams play their final pre-Christmas games on Monday. The Red Wings host the New York Islanders; the Maple Leafs visit the New York Rangers.

"Obviously we've got a big game here in a day, a real important game for us," Babcock said. "You want to have traction, like you say, going in. We're going to get, I think we're going to get the cavalry back eventually here so it'll be fun to have those guys."

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