St. Paul, Minn. — There are benefits to having Tyler Bertuzzi as a linemate.
He’s gritty, he’s not afraid to throw fists when he has to, he’s always going to be around the net, and he scraps for pucks.
And when Bertuzzi does score, that’s when the real fun begins.
“His celebrations are pretty funny,’ linemate Dylan Larkin said of Bertuzzi’s wild, arms-flailing, rambunctious get-togethers. “He gets fired up.”——
The Red Wings were fortunate to see three of those “cellys” Saturday, as Bertuzzi’s three goals — and Thomas Vanek’s two goals — powered the Wings to a 5-2 victory in Minnesota.
This was a deserved victory for the Wings, who’ve only had three in the last 16 games, and badly needed a boost of confidence and reaffirmation.
And it was Bertuzzi who got things going, redirecting a Gustav Nyquist shot 24 seconds into the game.
Then, in the third period, with the Wings clinging to a 3-2 lead, Bertuzzi did it again on the opening shift, scoring, deflecting Larkin’s shot 47 seconds into the period.
“It was great to see; he’s just a good, fun kid, battles hard, goes to the net,” Vanek said. “That’s the game I enjoy, and I see a lot of similarities in his game. He loves going in there and getting his hair in his face, whatever, and he’s good at it.”
The three goals gave Bertuzzi 13 for the season. Only Larkin (18 goals) and Andreas Athanasiou (17) have more on the team.
Somewhat fittingly Saturday, the game was Bertuzzi’s 100th career game. He now has 20 goals in his first 100 games, a testament to his willingness to do the dirty work for linemates, who might have more pure skill, and supply the flash to Bertuzzi’s grit.
“That’s his bread and butter, for sure,” said coach Jeff Blashill of Bertuzzi’s beeline for the net. “He’s a real good defensive player, a good complementary player with guys like Larkin and Nyquist, because he can make a play with them. He’s got poise with them.
“He’s real good around the net, he knows how to tip pucks. Not just a net presence, but knows how to tip pucks.”
Bertuzzi felt things evened out for him Saturday, because the night before in Winnipeg, he had good opportunities to score and came away empty.
“I missed an open net (in Winnipeg) so I needed to bounce back and create offense and our line was decent (Saturday),” Bertuzzi said. “After the second one I felt like maybe it was my night, or I’m in the right spots.
“It felt good to get the hat trick.”
A team relishes any win, but the Wings deeply appreciated Saturday’s victory.
There haven’t been a lot of them in weeks, and the frustration over playing well enough to win — and not — was getting to the group.
Beating the Wild was a sort of validation for the Wings.
“It’s been a tough stretch, but the way we won, it was a total team effort,” Larkin said. “We had our best third period of the year, we shut them down. Any momentum they wanted to create, we ended it.
“We proved to ourselves we know how to win games.”
Teammates were happy for Vanek, whose family still lives in the Minneapolis area, and whose sons had their friends at Saturday’s game.
“My kids are getting older, they have friends who are into hockey, so they come to the game and they’re excited, so it’s fun to score for those little boys and show them the old man can still score a couple,” Vanek said.
The two goals Saturday gave Vanek nine for the season, not entirely the type of production the Wings anticipated from Vanek, who missed several weeks with a knee injury.
“His effort has been great,” Blashill said. “It’s not an effort thing. At times he’s started to squeeze it (the stick) a little bit too tight. Good for him to shoot the puck. We need him shooting as much as he can.”