Jonas Gustavsson Helps Put An End To Detroit Red Wings’ Shootout Struggles

Red Wings Jonas Gustavsson

John E. Sokolowski – USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson is having one of the best seasons of his career after being thrust into the starter’s role after Jimmy Howard went down with an injury, and on Saturday night he was able to find a little extra motivation in facing his former team as he helped the Red Wings snap a streak that was almost starting to become a distraction. While Gustavsson wasn’t in top form for the entire game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he stepped up when it mattered the most. His 19 saves in regulation and overtime helped his team reach the shootout, where goals from Daniel Aflredsson and Pavel Datsyuk and a bold pokecheck on by Gustavsson on Mason Raymond gave the Red Wings the win. It was the first win in 12 shootouts for Detroit, and the first of the season.

The Red Wings jumped out to a 3-1 lead behind goals from Datsyuk, Joakim Andersson and Tomas Jurco but the Maple Leafs battled back with two goals of their own in the second period. After a David Clarkson goal on a play that Gustavsson argued should have been blown dead, momentum seemed to have swung in Toronto’s direction for good. With a little over six minutes remaining, Tomas Tatar became a hero for the Red Wings as he scored his seventh goal of the season. Both teams had chances in overtime, and when the game went to the shootout many Detroit fans had to be worried. After all, the Red Wings were 0-6 in the tiebreaker this season and had only scored twice on 21 attempts. Saturday night proved to be different, though, as Alfredsson and Datsyuk did their part, but it was Gustavsson’s efforts that helped seal the win.

Through 16 appearances, Gustavsson has a 10-3-2 record with a 2.35 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He’s easily on pace to come close to or pass his career high in wins (17 during the 2011-12 season) and he deserves a lot of credit for keeping a Red wings team that has battled a slew of injuries rolling along in Howard’s absence. Detroit and Toronto will next cross paths on Jan. 1, 2014 when they meet in the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.

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