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Game Centre: Maple Leafs rally but it’s all for naught as Red Wings win in overtime

Game Centre: Maple Leafs rally but it’s all for naught as Red Wings win in overtime
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And to a degree it was. But there were many other things to consider in Detroit’s 5-4 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs .

Like, Garret Sparks’s troubling night, a sluggish Leaf squad struggling through two periods, an incredible third-period rally by the home side and a 3-on-3 overtime ending on Dylan Larkin’s breakaway goal.

Detroit was the better team though, winning the majority of puck battles and using their own speed to stifle the Maple Leafs just enough.

“The best thing about the game is it’s so honest,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “They played harder, they were better. We did a good job to get ourselves a point. They were the team that deserved the two. It was great we got one, but we didn’t have enough hands on deck.”

Babcock did not explain why Sparks started. He usually only plays the second game of a back-to-back, and Andersen took part in the morning skate. It seemed like a Wings lineup depleted by injury and a suspension would be a good chance for Sparks to get some work. He hadn’t played since Nov. 24, and the Leafs promised to have a bit extra juice with Nylander getting into his first game of the season, that big contract in hand.

Shooting from anywhere doesn’t work when Andersen is in net for Toronto, but it had an effect on Sparks, who wore the loss after the game.

“I don’t want to have to battle back like that. I’m happy we got a point. It’s all about winning. We didn’t win. There’s more work to be done,” said Sparks. “I’ve got to make another save.”

“I was just trying to get a feel for everything and start to get back to playing,” said Nylander. “It felt OK, there’s a lot of differences from practicing by yourself and with the team back home. I started feeling better, legs were OK, so it felt like an OK first game.”

Nylander played most of the third on the fourth line, with Tyler Ennis and Par Lindholm, getting 12 minutes 29 seconds if ice time. Last year, only four of his 82 games featured less time on ice.

“We had the bus thing that happened, we never even game him a practice,” said Babcock. “We had two guys on that line — one coming back from injury, and one that hasn’t played. In the end, we had an opportunity to get going, we tried to get going. It has nothing to do with Willie (being benched in the third). It has to do with me trying to win the game.”

“When I saw the replay, I thought it might be his back. He might be a little sore (Friday),” said Babcock. “At least it wasn’t his shoulder.”

Shooting from anywhere doesn’t work when Andersen is in net for Toronto, but it had an effect on Sparks. There will be more questions now about the state of backup goaltending after Thursday’s performance. If Andersen should get hurt, the Leafs’ top netminders are Sparks and one of the goalies in the minors: Eamon McAdam, Kasimir Kaskisuo and Jeff Glass. None have a goals-against average better than 3.30 or save percentage better than .890.
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