LAS VEGAS — Anthony Mantha acknowledges he has had a rough season, with "ups and downs" he's had to learn from, especially after missing 15 games with a hand injury midway through the season.
Mostly, it's the downs he's focused on in order to become a better player. Saturday night, it paid off.
Mantha scored the tying goal midway through the third period and got the winner 19 seconds into overtime, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
"Great play by (Dylan) Larkin, he was all over that forecheck, good stick on puck, created the turnover and then he tried to get a shot off and he wasn't able to, so he just tried to tap it back and he found my stick and it was a wide open net," Mantha said about the game-winning goal. "We knew we had to get a good start because this building is so loud and I think that's what we did. It's a fun building, it's loud, fans are into it, obviously it brings energy on both sides and you just try to build off of it."
On the winning goal, Vegas' Reilly Smith — playing in his 500th career game — turned the puck over right in front of the net, where Larkin fed Mantha, who poked home his 19th of the season, and first game-winning goal. Mantha also snapped a six-game scoring drought.
Luke Glendening also scored for Detroit and Jimmy Howard stopped 28 shots to improve to 3-5-0 in his last eight starts, and earn his first career win over the Golden Knights.
"From the drop of the puck, we were ready to go tonight," Howard said. "We had a great start to almost every single period and when we do that it gives us confidence. We didn't mess around with the puck in our own zone."
Several players agreed that even during a disappointing season that has Detroit with the third-least number of points in the NHL, playing in Las Vegas ignited the Red Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the third straight campaign after making the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons.
Detroit improved to 2-0-0 inside T-Mobile Arena, recently voted by NHL players as the league's best atmosphere to play in.
"I think it's one of a kind," defenceman Madison Bowey said. "I think just how loud it is, the emotions, everything is going and I think it just takes a really good team to kind of slow it down and communicate out there and work as one. I think we did that tonight, just as we planned."
Slowing it down is something the opposition has struggled with against the Golden Knights, who came into the game on a 10-1-0 run since the trade deadline, while outscoring teams 47-22.
Smith and Cody Eakin scored for the Golden Knights, and Malcolm Subban finished with 27 saves while falling to 13-2-0 in two seasons at T-Mobile Arena.
"We were flat at the start of the game and some lullness in the second period," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. "I didn't think we were horrible, but I didn't think we had the energy or the jump. I'm glad we got the one, but they played a good, hard game."
Mantha tied it on a power play with 8:43 left in the third period on a one-timer from the right circle.
Glendening gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with his 10th at 3:06 of the first, and Eakin tied it with 5:17 left in the second when he was alone at the doorstep, positioned perfectly for a rebound, and knocked the puck home for his 20th. Smith gave the Golden Knights their first lead of the game with a short-handed breakaway just past the midpoint of the third, when he deked around Howard and flipped a backhand top shelf for his 18th, a lead that lasted just over a minute.
With the overtime loss, Vegas still needs four points to clinch a playoff berth, whether it comes by way of victory or losses by Arizona.
NOTES: With his assist on Glendening's goal, Red Wings LW Taro Hirose, who made his NHL debut on March 19, picked up his third point in three games. ... Golden Knights starting G Marc-Andre Fleury, who was scratched and has been listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and wife Veronique announced the birth of their son, James, earlier in the day. ... Detroit C Andreas Athanasiou has at least one point in three of the last four games, with four goals and one assist.
Red Wings: At San Jose on Monday night.
Vegas: At St. Louis on Monday night.
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