|Teammates rushed to Tomas Tatar after the forward scored the eventual game-winning goal for the Red Wings in the third period at Staples Center. (Photo by Getty Images) |
Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar
kissed his index finger and pointed toward the heavens.
Moments earlier, Tatar knocked in a rebound with 7:54 left in the game Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings that was anything but an ordinary goal and worth far more to Tatar than just being the game winner in the Red Wings' 3-1 victory.
Goal No. 10 on the season was part of a two-point night for Tatar, who has scored in each of his past three games, and it was for family. Tatar's gesture honored his father Jan, who died Friday in Slovakia following a long illness.
Playing with a heavy heart, Tatar also came through late in the first period by setting up Riley Sheahan's first NHL goal.
"That game and that goal was for him," Tatar told reporters after the game. "I felt he was with us the whole game. It wasn't easy, but the guys helped me a lot. They helped me think about stuff other than my dad."
During the holiday break, Tatar returned home to see his father, but wasn't sure if he realized his son will be competing for Slovakia in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"I was hoping he could make it through," Tatar said. "I just wanted to work as hard as I could for my dad. This game was for him."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock was able to relate, having lost a parent at an early age.
"The way you honor your father and your mother and your past is by continuing to do what you should do and playing hard and doing things well," Babcock said. "He's going to have a different relationship with his dad now.
"I lost my mom early, too, and I pray to my mom every night during the national anthem. I never, ever wanted to let her down. He can be the same way. His dad is here with him. It's a different kind of relationship, but it can still be one that's real supportive for me."
Tatar will play for the Red Wings on Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks before heading home for his father's funeral. He will miss the game Thursday against the New York Rangers, but is thankful for the support from teammates who helped him get through an emotional evening.
"I can't be more happy with this group of guys," Tatar said. "They talked to me, helped me out, made me think about other stuff. I was ready to play the game."