You always want your team’s leaders to show up in the biggest spots, when they’re truly needed. Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin did exactly that in an exciting overtime victory that kept Detroit’s postseason hopes alive.

It was overtime in a 4-4 contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Detroit needed to score in order to keep their slim playoff hopes from evaporating on the road. That’s when Larkin stepped up — redirecting an Alex DeBrincat shot past the goalie for a potential season-saving goal.

“It’s one of the biggest of my career,” Larkin said after the game. “And I’m hoping this year to have some more big goals.”

The stakes could not have been higher. Detroit is in a tight contest with the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Both the Capitals and Flyers won earlier in the day, meaning a Detroit loss in Toronto would have mathematically eliminated the Red Wings and immediately ended their season.

Earlier in the season, Detroit appeared to be in control of their own destiny. The team was 33-20-6 as late as February 28th and led the Eastern Conference wild card standings. However, the Red Wings dropped eight of their next nine games and lost control of their fate. Larkin missed approximately two weeks during that stretch.

The Red Wings are currently 39-32-9 with 87 points and two games left in the regular season. Detroit needs to take care of business in back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens and get some help along the way to clinch a playoff berth. Detroit is currently as close to making the playoffs as the team has been since 2016 and fans are desperate to see playoff hockey come back to Hockey Town.

Dylan Larkin letting go of the past, forging a new future for Detroit Red Wings hockey

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) scores the winning goal and celebrates with right wing Alex DeBrincat (93) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the overtime period at Scotiabank Arena.
© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t been all happy moments for Dylan Larkin with the Detroit Red Wings.

Larkin’s rookie season was the last time that Detroit has made the playoffs. His second season in the league had him witness the team’s playoff streak (earning a berth every season between 1991 and 2016) come to end in a hugely symbolic moment for the franchise.

Larkin was asked earlier in the season if Detroit’s struggles in the past several seasons had an impact in his play, specifically if he was making a point to elevate his game now that Detroit had a shot of getting back into the playoffs.

“One thing I’ve worked on is to let go of the past,” Larkin said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys in this locker room, and it’s not the same group as 2018, 2019. And it’s not a ‘poor me’ thing. We’ve got a lot of guys that have worked extremely hard all season and sacrificed a lot. We’ve got good players in that room that want to write a new story. And I think that’s been my thought process all year.”

Ultimately Larkin is focused on the future and has big plans for the Red Wings, the entire team, moving forward.

“I’ve really tried not to think about (the team’s recent history),” Larkin added. “This season, it’s not about one guy. … It’s about all of us and writing a new story.”