Saturday’s game proves why Wings needed to be back in East

Henrik Zetterberg celebrates with Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist after scoring the game-winning goal.

Duane Burleson

DETROIT — Saturday night was the perfect example of why the Red Wings needed to move back to the Eastern Conference.

Back-to-back games can be a drag in the NHL, but not when the Wings are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs home-and-home on those nights.

Both Wings fans and Leafs fans represented well, often with dueling chants of "Let’s go, Red Wings" and "Go, Leafs, go!"

"I thought No. 1, there was real good energy in the building so it was fun for the guys," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Anytime you play a team back-to-back it’s way harder the second night. Everybody wants to respond. I thought Toronto did."

After a 4-1 win in Toronto Friday night, the Wings and Leafs couldn’t generate anywhere near that kind of offense in Detroit.

Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, playing in his first game of the season, and Jonathan Bernier matched each other save for save in a game that stayed scoreless until the last 9.9 seconds of overtime.

That’s when Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg sent Detroit fans home happy with a blistering shot that eluded Bernier on the right side of the net for a 1-0 victory.

"I think (Jonathan) Ericsson passed to (Niklas) Kronwall, who jumped in the play and had a three on two," Zetterberg said. "Passed me the puck and I put pretty good wood on it and it went in, post and in, I think."

Gustavsson, the former Leaf, had 30 saves for his sixth career shutout and first since March 10, 2012 against Philadelphia.

"It’s always fun to play against the Leafs, they always have some fans here, too, so it almost feels like a playoff game because it’s a little bit louder than normal because both teams have a good crowd here," Gustavsson said. "It’s a lot of fun."

Luke Glendening enjoyed getting under the skin of some of the Leafs for the second straight night, including Phil Kessel, who was goaded into a cross-checking penalty.

"With the crowd involved like it was (Saturday night), it’s fun to be that guy," Glendening said. "Probably got to be a little careful to stay out of the penalty box but it was fun. That’s what you play for, these type of games, and this type of rivalry."

Even the Leafs appreciated the fact that their fans were so boisterous at Joe Louis Arena.

"That’s was probably the best support we’ve gotten since I’ve been here," said James van Riemsdyk, who was stopped by Gustavsson on a breakaway. "That was awesome as far as how passionate the fans were. That was great to hear. It was a fun game to play in."

"It’s fun," echoed Joffrey Lupul. "Again, it’s probably better energy than we get back in Toronto. It’s nice when we’re here or in Buffalo, places where a lot of our fans come out."

Of course, the important thing for the Wings is getting four points to the Leafs’ one point in the two divisional games.

"We knew it was a big weekend," Zetterberg said. "The performance we did and I had on Wednesday wasn’t good enough. We all wanted to come in and play two good games. We started off with a good game in Toronto and (Saturday) was a good team victory."

Although Gustav Nyquist saw his goal-scoring streak come to an end after four games, he enjoyed the rivalry game.

"This was one of the most fun 0-0 games I’ve been a part of," Nyquist said. "The crowd was really into it. There was a lot of chances, great goaltending. Just fun hockey. It’s great to play Toronto."

Although the Wings had some great rivalries in the Western Conference — most notably with the Chicago Blackhawks, a fellow Original Six member — there’s something different about playing the Leafs.

Especially when you’re playing the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada on a Saturday.

"It’s fun to play these teams, every since we went over to the Western Conference and didn’t see Toronto that often and moved back, this is why," Zetterberg said. "Home and home against Toronto, Hockey Night in Canada, it’s fun. You can see it in the stands. It’s fun for us to play."

Of course, it’s even more fun when you win.

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