Jeff Blashill on Anthony Mantha's play Saturday against Nashville. The Detroit News
Nashville, Tenn. — The Red Wings’ top line picked up where it left off late last season, but the key Saturday was it got just enough help, too.
Luke Glendening scored on a odd-man rush at 9:24 of the third period, breaking a tie and helping sending the Red Wings to a 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in the season opener.
Valtteri Filppula drew the assist, providing the Wings with their first goal, or points, from anyone other than the dominant Wings’ top line for the evening.
Tyler Bertuzzi scored an empty-net goal at 18:58 to assure the victory, with Glendening assisting.
“Glennie is just a winner,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “Glennie has worked hard on his shot, and the goal he scored, that’s indicative of the work he’s put in.”
Goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 39 shots to preserve the victory.
Howard and Glendening were real good, the much maligned defense held its own, but in the end, it was that top line of the Wings’ that was so dominant.
Bertuzzi had two goals and two assists, Anthony Mantha had a goal and two assists and Dylan Larkin had a goal and assist, as the line accounted for nine of the Wings’ 12 points, and was plus-11 for the evening.
“They’re picking up where they left off,” Howard said. "That’s what we need that line to do, to get it going for us and then have the guys chipping in like they did tonight.”
Mantha felt the same type of chemistry and explosiveness as he did from his linemates late last season.
“It’s huge, we just right away come back to where we left off last year,” Mantha said. “It’s exactly what we wanted. We had a great camp and this game proves that we’re meant to be a first line together.
“Hopefully we can stick around the whole season.”
Said Blashill: “They’re a real good line. They know how to play together, they kind of feed off each other. Dylan kind of drives the line with his energy, Bert is greasy and skilled and smart, and Mo has that great skill package. They’ve been a good line together, they really enjoy playing together, and we’ll need them to be great.”
Larkin’s goal at 4:02 of the third period, a blistering shot from the high slot set up by Mantha, gave the Wings a brief 3-2 lead.
But Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm tied it again 46 seconds later, driving the net and putting his own rebound past Howard.
Dylan Larkin believes the Red Wings can surprise people this season Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Glendening’s goal broke the tie, and showed the Wings’ persistence.
“We have to find ways to build confidence with our group, and coming on the road in an environment like this, it was big,” Blashill said. “We weren’t perfect by any stretch, we gave up lots of chances, but Howie was excellent. I liked the fact we competed and sacrificed as a group.”
Bertuzzi and Mantha had first-period goals, while Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson (power play) and Filip Forsberg answered in the second period.
Bertuzzi opened the scoring on a one-timer from Dylan Larkin at 10:29, Mantha drawing the second assist on a tic-tac-toe passing play.
Mantha made it 2-0 at 11:40 with a nifty individual play. Mantha drove the center of the ice, got toppled over, but managed to deliver a backhand with enough on it to beat goalie Juuse Saros.
“The Flying Frenchman,” Larkin said, describing Mantha’s goal. “He was in the air, everything. He was moving his feet, it was a great goal, one of the best I’ve seen him score.”
Red Wings have won six consecutive games in Nashville — last losing on Dec. 30, 2013.