TRAVERSE CITY — Givani Smith took a nice, slow skate past the Dallas Stars bench after scoring what would end up the game-winning goal Tuesday.
“I was tired,” Smith said, flashing a smile, minus a couple upper teeth.
Smith’s mini victory lap past the team he just scored on — and scuffled with on several occasions — capped off Detroit’s rally from down 4-2 to win the NHL Prospect Tournament with a 6-5 victory over the Dallas Stars at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.
Smith and Dallas’ Ben Gleason got into a near fight in the second period, and Smith and Stars left wing Riley Tufte could be seen jawing at each other on several occasions after that, including in the final minutes, following Smith’s second goal of the day to put Detroit up 6-4 with 2:34 left.
“Just me trying to get the team going. Get a spark going,” Smith said. “That’s what I like to do. I like to talk a little bit, get under guys’ skin. It worked out.”
Joe Veleno added two scores as well, scoring the Red Wings’ fourth and fifth goals as Detroit put four on the board between 8:40 and 17:28 of the third period to erase that deficit.
“He’s just a big boy,” Veleno said of Smith. “I mean, he’s got good skill. He works hard in the corners, skates well, and I think guys are scared of him. So he always got the puck. He makes room for the guys on this line.”
Left wing Taro Hirose was the first to lift the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup that Detroit won for just the second time in the Prospect Tournament’s 21-year history.
“We were talking about that earlier how we can never seal the deal,” Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon said. “(Mike Knuble) is here too, and he was saying that he’s been in plenty of championship games, but never won one. I said, ‘Oh that’s great, Mike.’”
Gregor MacLeod scored with eight seconds left on Detroit’s second power play of the game, assisted by Jarid Lukosevicius and Ryan Kuffner for the first period’s only score.
Dallas led 3-2 after two periods, as Joel Kiviranta, Ty Dellandrea and Emil Djuse scored even-strength goals. Smith had his first goal in between Kiviranta and Dellandrea, smacking in the rebound of a MacLeod shot that rung off the top inside corner of the pipe.
Detroit’s only other win in the tournament came in 2013, despite the Red Wings earning a championship-game berth in five of the last seven years.
“All week this group’s been pretty tight, pretty resilient and come back from a deficit like that,” Simon said. “To win a game going to camp is gonna be huge for a lot of these guys confidence.”
Kuffner scored from behind the net 8:40 into the third to trim Dallas’ lead to 4-3. Veleno scored from a scramble in front of the net and then again 1:50 later to put the Wings up 5-4.
“We started to get pucks deep in the third period instead of I think the second period was a little bit too individualistic,” Simon said. “And we’re trying to do things on our own. And as a result, we turn the puck over and now we’re coming back in our own end.”
Later in the game, Simon switched his lines and put Smith — who started the game on a line with Filip Zadina and Chase Pearson — onto a line with Taro Hirose and Veleno.
“He’s playing well and you reward guys when they’re playing well and Texas had some big heavy defensemen and big forwards and were dumping the puck in but we weren’t protecting Veleno,” Simon said. “Givani is a big body. He’s strong. We put him up there to hold onto pucks and let Veleno and Hirose do their thing.”
Smith’s second goal came on a break-away and ended with Smith plowing into Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger after the puck had already crossed the line.
“That’s just a finesse play by me around the net,” Smith joked. “You can’t teach that.”
The Red Wings scored on nine of 19 power plays in the tournament, with Veleno ending the five-day event with seven goals in four games.
“Points are nice and all but I think playing the right way and winning hockey games, I think, is what matters most at the next level,” Veleno said. “So, I found a way to contribute.”
Columbus beat Toronto 5-4 in overtime on Alexandre Texier’s goal to claim the third-place game.
The New York Rangers topped St. Louis 5-3 in the fifth-place game, scoring the contest’s first four goals.
Chicago routed Minnesota in the seventh-place contest, scoring a half dozen goals before the Wild finally got on the board with 2:03 remaining in the third.