LOS ANGELES (AP) — After Tomas Tatar knocked the rebound into the Kings' net for Detroit's tiebreaking goal, he kissed his index finger and pointed it skyward.
In his first game since his father's death back home in Slovakia, Tatar honored him with a beautiful goal and a graceful gesture, sending the Red Wings on to an emotional victory.
Tatar scored the winning goal with 7:54 to play in the Red Wings' 3-1 win over Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Tatar had an early assist on Riley Sheahan's first NHL goal, and he completed a cathartic night by jumping on Sheahan's shot in the slot and beating Jonathan Quick for a goal in his third straight game — but the first since his father, 60-year-old Jan, died of a liver ailment.
"That game and that goal was for him," Tatar said. "I felt he was with us the whole game. It wasn't easy, but the guys helped me a lot. They helped me think about stuff other than my dad."
Tatar made the long trip home during Detroit's holiday break to see his father, but he isn't sure whether Jan, a former soccer player, realized his son is headed to the Olympics next month.
"I was hoping he could make it through," Tatar said. "I just wanted to work as hard as I could for my dad. This game was for him."
Tatar will play for the Wings on Sunday night in Anaheim before heading home for his father's funeral, missing a game against the Rangers next week.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock praised the 23-year-old's quiet maturity.
"The way you honor your father or your mother when they pass is by continuing to do what you should do," Babcock said. "Playing hard and doing things well. I lost my mom early, too. I never wanted to let her down. And his dad is here with him."
Daniel Cleary also scored in the third period, and Jimmy Howard made 44 saves as the Red Wings slowed their recent slump by sending Los Angeles to its seventh loss in nine games.
Howard made several big saves in the final minute as Detroit hung on for its second win in five games, but also injured his hip flexor, according to Babcock. Backup Petr Mrazek will start when the Red Wings face NHL-leading Anaheim.
Drew Doughty scored his first goal in a month during a two-man advantage, but the Kings couldn't score in the final two periods of their third loss in 10 home games. Quick stopped 23 shots, but also gave up a juicy rebound on Tatar's go-ahead goal.