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DETROIT — Jonathan Ericsson’s game-winning goal didn’t just come as a surprise to many. It came as a relief to one person in particular.
In the Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Kings, Ericsson scored the decisive goal with 4.5 seconds left in regulation, as his slap shot from the right point snuck through the pads of Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick and dribbled across the goal line.
As his teammates and the crowd at Joe Louis Arena celebrated, a nearby linesman approached the defenseman with an unusual response.
“One of the linesmen was thanking me after I scored,” Ericsson said.
The call of nature — and the washroom — beckoned the official.
“He said he wouldn’t last overtime,” Ericsson said, stifling a giggle. “That was kind of funny.”
Ericsson’s goal answered Alec Martinez’s tally with 52.8 seconds left in the third period, which tied the game at 2-2. Ericsson’s game-winner helped goalie Jimmy Howard salvage a 45-save effort and helped the Red Wings to their third straight win.
In the time between Martinez’s goal and Ericsson’s goal, Detroit coach Mike Babcock had resigned himself to the notion that his team would earn at least one point by playing overtime instead of two points for a regulation win against the Kings, who, less than eight months removed from winning the Stanley Cup, landed in a four-way tie for last place in the Western Conference after Sunday’s loss to the Red Wings.
“I thought we were real competitive in the third period, and that was will stuff, not skill,” Babcock said. “I knew it was going to be ugly today. I just wanted it to be an ugly win, not an ugly loss. That’s just the way the league is, you’ve got to find a way to win.”
Still, the Kings didn’t appear to be a staggering squad. Los Angeles outshot the Red Wings 47-31 and peppered Howard with 23 shots in a scoreless second period.
Detroit gave up 38 shots on goal in two periods against the Kings. By comparison, the Red Wings gave up 36 shots in a 6-0 loss Jan. 19 at St. Louis.
“Without Jimmy, we wouldn’t have had a chance today,” Ericsson said. “I think they [Los Angeles] were better throughout the game. He really kept us in the game the first two periods. We owe Jimmy this win.”
Pavel Datsyuk gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 5:44 of the first when he took a cross-ice pass from Henrik Zetterberg inside the blue line and split two Kings defensemen to beat Quick. With 2:32 left in the first, Damien Brunner gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead on his sixth goal of the season.
Less than five minutes after Howard denied Dustin Brown on a one-timer from the left side of the goal, Anze Kopitar cut Detroit’s lead to 2-1 when he picked up a rebound on the right side and beat Howard with 40.3 seconds left.
Martinez tied the game at 2-2 after the Kings pulled Quick (28 saves) for a sixth skater with a minute left in regulation, and Ericsson answered with his second goal of the season.
“I saw the guys were battling hard in the corner, to get around the net,” Ericsson said. “It just bounced off the boards to me, and we got a lot of time to just try to get it on the net. And it just rolled in.”
Ericsson said he didn’t see the puck skid by Quick.
“I just saw the ref pointing at the goal,” Ericsson said. “That’s good enough for me.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.