Anthony Mantha's four-goal tear leaves Stars in dust; Red Wings start 2-0
Detroit — What a start to this regular season for Anthony Mantha.
The Red Wings forward seemed primed to have a big season given how last season ended, and thus far, it’s going to according to plan.
In the Red Wings’ home opener Sunday Mantha had a night to remember with four goals — the last one being the winner with 53.3 seconds left — and sending the Wings to a 4-3 victory over Dallas.
Dylan Larkin won the draw and got the puck back to Filip Hronek, who found Mantha in the slot. Mantha then cleanly beating goalie Anton Khudobin for his fifth goal in the two-game season, electrifying the sold out crowd.
“I had the shooting lanes and I tried to shoot as much as I could,” Mantha said. “We talked about it (Saturday in Nashville), the confidence is there since last year. Playing with (linemates) Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi) and Larks (Dylan Larkin), I can’t praise them enough, they’re playing unreal hockey right now.”
It was the single best Wings player performance since Johan Franzen's five-goal night against the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 2, 2011.
Mantha had eight shots on net in just under 20 minutes of ice time and notched the Wings’ first natural hat trick — uninterrupted by another teammate’s goal — since Henrik Zetterberg in 2008.
“I just have a better mentality of putting pucks on net,” Mantha said. “If you look at the first goal, it wasn’t the hardest shot (another one-timer), and the fourth goal wasn’t the hardest shot either. It’s just pucks on net and that’s exactly what I need to keep doing.”
Larkin assisted on two of Mantha’s goals and is enjoying what he’s seeing from his linemate.
“He’s playing great,” Larkin said. “I love the guy, he’s a great teammate and he’s playing well right now. When he’s hot, he’s one of the best in the world. You’re seeing that and he’s fun to play with.”
Coach Jeff Blashill has been with Mantha since the big forward entered pro hockey in Grand Rapids in 2014.
Blashill has seen Mantha gradually dominate every league he’s played in, and is hoping the same will now take place in the NHL for Mantha.
“He’s a good person that cares and wants to be a real good player,” Blashill said. “That has never been questioned in my time with him and I’ve been with him a long time and he cares a bunch, and he wants to be good.”
Despite Mantha’s brilliance, the Wings still needed goaltender Jonathan Bernier to preserve the win with a scramble save on the goal line with 2.7 seconds left.
“I really felt it was under my skate, and my skate didn’t really cross the line,” said Bernier of the final Stars' flurry. “I knew I had it.”
The Wings fell behind early 2-0 in the first period on Dallas goals from Roope Hintz and Tyler Seguin, and Dallas also tied the game 3-3 with Hintz’ second goal, just 33 seconds after Mantha had scored to open the third period.
But in the end, the Stars had no answer for Mantha.
“He had his night tonight,” Bernier said.
Mantha single-handedly got the Wings back in the game in the second period.
On the power play, Mantha took a pass across the slot from Taro Hirose and whistled a one-timer past Khudobin just 48 seconds into the second period, cutting Dallas’ lead to 2-1.
The quick start was exactly what the Wings needed after a dormant first period.
Mantha then tied the game 2-2 at 9:43, taking a pass from Danny DeKeyser, driving around defenseman Esa Lindell, and slipping the puck past Khudobin, then opened the third period tapping in Larkin’s shot, the puck laying in the crease just 15 seconds in.
The victory was an excellent follow up after the Wings defeated another playoff contending Central Division team, Nashville, in the season opener.
The Wings began last season 1-8-2 and struggled to find their balance for much of the season.
“We needed a good start,” Blashill said. “Two games doesn’t mean to me a good start. We have lots of work to do. But 2-0 is better than the opposite, it helps breed belief and confidence in this league is a huge thing.”