Wings' Coreau relieved with first NHL victory

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Let’s call it an early Christmas present.

That had to be what it felt like for goaltender Jared Coreau, who in his second NHL start made 31 saves Friday in the 4-3 shootout victory over Florida.

It was Coreau’s first NHL victory. And with the way Coreau looked late in the game, it very well might not be his last.

“I guess it’a a bit of relief,” Coreau said. “It’s Christmastime, so it’s a good Christmas present to myself.

“It just feels real good.”

Coreau got the benefit of two video challenges that went the Red Wings’ way.

In the second period, a goal by Florida defenseman Keith Yandle was disallowed when officials ruled goalie interference on Florida’s Nick Bjugstad in Coreau’s crease (although it looked questionable).

In overtime, Florida’s Vincent Trocheck’s shot was originally called a goal but actually hit post-to-post as video confirmed.

“That’s the ultimate goal, any time you get the chance you want to get a win,” Coreau said. “The big picture is getting wins for the team. We were down and the guys battled hard to get back and win.”

Coreau was called up from Grand Rapids after Jimmy Howard (sprained knee) was hurt in Tuesday’s game in Tampa.

Coreau earned a start in Pittsburgh in early December after Howard hurt his groin.

Coreau played well early in that game but let a two-goal lead disappear in the third period, losing 5-3 to the Penguins.

Red Wings' Howard out 4-6 weeks with knee sprain

After Saturday’s morning skate Coreau talked about the need to close out games like that, keeping the lead intact for his teammates.

Against the Panthers, Coreau shut the door late making several important saves.

“It’s huge,” forward Thomas Vanek said of Coreau’s performance. “He’s a big goalie and he wants to play at this level. The biggest thing was he battled hard.

“And just the way he battled, the guys in front of him did so. I felt good for him.”

Coach Jeff Blashill has been pleased with Coreau’s development in Grand Rapids and has expressed confidence in the 6-foot-6 goalie.

The way Coreau stood firm after early frustration against Florida was a good sign.

“He played well, he made big saves in the third period to allow us to get the win in the end,” Blashill said. “You have to find a way to win and he found a way to win.”

With Petr Mrazek still unable to recapture his form from earlier this season, Coreau is likely to get a share of the workload with Howard out for the next four-to-six weeks.

Coreau, 23, is eager to establish himself at the NHL level.

“It’s like (former Red Wings coach) Mike Babcock said, ‘Once you get a taste, you want the whole pie,’ ” Coreau said. “It’s true. You fly on the plane, the pay is better, things are just better. It makes you want it more.”

“I’m going to work hard, do all the good things and enjoy my time here.”

Reunion time

When the Red Wings return to game action Tuesday against Buffalo, the organization will bring back members of the 1997 Stanley Cup-winning team.

Players will be reunited for a pregame ceremony honoring the 20th anniversary season of Red Wings’ first Stanley Cup-winning team in 42 years, with broadcasters Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond moderating the ceremony.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early for the pregame ceremony, which is set to begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. and will be telecast live on FOX Sports Detroit.

The first 5,000 fans will receive Locker Room Hats styled similarly to the popular championship black and suede hats worn by the 1997 Red Wings Stanley Cup team.

Important addition

Frans Nielsen is looking like a key free agent addition, given his timely goals and veteran presence to a younger, inexperienced roster.

Nielsen scored the tying goal against Florida, blocked two shots, scored the deciding goal in the shootout, and had a takeaway in an impressive all-around performance.

“That’s what he brings,” Vanek said of his one-time teammate with the New York Islanders, another productive Red Wings’ free-agent signing. “He’s an all-around player. He’s a great penalty killer. As a line we were a little unlucky at times but with Fransy and Gus (Nyquist) we’re going in the right direction.”

“We got rewarded in the end to tie it up.”