DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.
"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.
To Toronto centre Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.
"We’ve got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn’t go in.
"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."
Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.
James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves.
Anthony Mantha and Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit.
Matthews took William Nylander’s pass and snapped a high shot into the roof of the net from a sharp angle for his 27th goal of the season, but just his fourth winner.
"I just tried to play Nylander there," Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek said. "I didn’t see Matthews. It was a nice shot by him. He put it in the top corner."
Matthews had gone three games without a goal, his longest drought in a month.
"Me and Willie looked at each other and said, ‘Finally,"’ Matthews said. "Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh it off and keep going out there and playing the same way. We’re good players. We’re too skilled to create all those opportunities and not capitalize on them.
"It just happened to be in the last couple of seconds of the game."
Detroit centre Dylan Larkin iced the puck, leading to a faceoff in the Wings end with 37.8 seconds left in the third period.
It was the second time in eight games the Wings had surrendered the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation. Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 7.7 seconds left to give the Panthers a 3-2 verdict over the Wings on Feb. 3.
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill felt his team needed to show more composure in the dying moments.
"I think we can talk to each other and know that we’ve got a little more time there and make a little more poised play," Blashill said. "We didn’t and then they made a play on the faceoff."
Mantha opened the scoring on a power play 5:51 into the second period. Standing on the doorstep of McElhinney’s net, Mantha deflected Gustav Nyquist’s shot under the goalie’s arm for his career-high 20th goal.
"Obviously, it feels good," Mantha said. "I don’t want to stop here, that’s for sure. I would rather get the two points tonight than that 20th."
Van Riemsdyk tied it 1:11 later. Jake Gardiner’s wrist shot from the point hit van Riemsdyk in the left leg and deflected past goalie Petr Mrazek.
Toronto took the lead 18 seconds later. Marner skated across the front of the net, forcing Mrazek to leave his feet before whipping a wrist shot by him.
The Red Wings tied it midway through the third. Nyquist fed a quick cross-ice feed to a wide-open Zetterberg and he redirected the puck into the open side.
Notes: Mrazek stopped 31 shots. …. Red Wings D Mike Green missed his second straight game due to an upper-body injury. .. Detroit D Xavier Ouellet saw his first action since Jan. 25, sitting out nine straight games as a healthy scratch. … Both teams played Saturday. Detroit is 3-2-2 in the second game of back to backs, while Toronto is 6-4-1. .. McElhinney made his first start for the Maple Leafs since Feb. 5.
Maple Leafs: Host Florida on Tuesday night.
Red Wings: Host Nashville on Tuesday night. Detroit won 3-1 in Nashville on Saturday night.