Happy homecoming: Bernier, Mantha help Wings end Montreal misery

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Montreal — Another nice early season sign for the Red Wings.

They actually won a game in Montreal, which hasn't been an easy thing to do in about 12 years.

The Wings skated into their house of horrors on Thursday and left with an impressive 4-2 victory.

Detroit Red Wings' Anthony Mantha (39) celebrates his goal with teammates Dylan Larkin (71) and Dennis Cholowski (21) during the second period on Thursday.

Darren Helm, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha (power play) and Luke Glendening (empty net) scored for the Wings, while goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 33 shots.

And, it happened to be Bernier’s first career win in his hometown of Montreal.

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 4, Canadiens 2

“It was a solid performance,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “These are the type of games, for us to be successful, we have to win. (Ahead) 3-2 late in the game, we did a good job in the third (period) of not giving them a ton. We defended fairly well most of the game, and when they got chances, Bernie was excellent.

“These are the types of games we have to win.”

It was the Wings' first victory in regulation time in Montreal since Dec. 4, 2007 (the Wings had won three games in overtime or shootout in the past 14 games at Bell Centre). Overall, the Wings ended a nine-game losing streak to the Canadiens, who have dominated the season series (Wings are 4-19-1 in their last 24 games against Montreal).

“It feels great, especially in a building we haven’t had much success the last couple of years,” Dylan Larkin said. “We knew they played last night, but we weren’t going to make it about them. We were going to make it about us all night and we did that.

“Bernie played great and it was great to see him in his hometown play like that and the guys block shots in front of him and for us to battle. It was a huge win.”

More: Evgeny Svechnikov excited to be back with Red Wings after lost season

The Wings have talked much early this season about closing out games and not getting rattled when opponents make a late push.

The Wings responded well twice when Montreal tied the game during the evening, and in the third period played a fine road defensive game.

“Part of it is maturity,” Blashill said. “When you’re a young player, part of the maturity process is learning how to play those types of games and be OK with shifts when nothing happens and be OK with grinding and grinding away. We have a lot of young players in key roles that have to learn how to win.”

The Wings raised their record to 3-1-0 (six points) after four games, something not many people expected heading into the second week of the season. Montreal dropped to 1-1-2 (four points).

Here are some other observations from Thursday's game:

► Larkin line keeps humming: That’s 20 points between the three players through four games — Mantha has eight points (six goals, two assists), Larkin six points (one goal, five assists) and Bertuzzi six points (three goals, three assists).

Mantha always seems to play well in Montreal, his hometown, and provided about 50 family and friends with something to cheer about with a laser of a shot on the power play, one-timing Dennis Cholowski’s pass.

“Lots of friends and family here, it’s always fun to play in Montreal and go see them after the game,” Mantha said. “It’s just confidence right now. Linemates are feeding me properly and it’s going in right now. I need to keep shooting.”

After a rather ordinary night against Anaheim, the Larkin line was so very noticeable in this game.

► Secondary scoring: The Wings need it, but they probably didn’t expect it from Helm and Glendening.

Helm opened the scoring flipping a loose puck to the side of Carey Price into the net, and Glendening closed it out with an empty-net goal.

The fourth line of Helm, Jacob de la Rose and Justin Abdelkader have been active and provided a real boost of energy.

“They played real well last game and I probably get them as much ice time as they deserved,” said Blashill, who started the line Thursday. “They’re a big, strong line that can do some grinding down low and they’re all pretty accountable defensively. The one luxury I have is I trust every line, and when you trust every line you can maximize your group and you can run your bench based on your team and not based on the other team.”

► Bernier's return: The goaltender returned home and provided a workmanlike effort by keeping the Canadiens scoreless in the third period with the game on the line.

Getting that first career victory in Montreal was special, too.

“I waited too long for that one,” Bernier said. “Obviously it felt good. I almost told (family, friends) not to come, need to mix it up for something.”

The Wings need Bernier to provide more consistent goaltending than he did last season. He simply didn't inspire much confidence over the long haul last season, playing his best hockey when he saw more action late in the schedule.

“Good for Bernie, he’s a good goalie who works extremely hard,” Blashill said. “Last year wasn’t great, but I would take a lot of the blame in the sense we didn’t defend well enough in front of him.”

Taking one for the team: Blashill had a theory on how the Wings’ success in Montreal finally changed.

“I went from two hot dogs before the game — that’s what I’ve done normally — to three hot dogs,” said Blashill, talking about the famed, delicious hot dogs at Bell Centre. “I sacrificed for the team here tonight. I’m not sure my nutritionist was real pleased.”

Crushed diets aside, Blashill said the losing streak wasn’t really brought up.

“We actually didn’t talk about it,” Blashill said. “What we did talk about is this is a team that’s finished ahead of us and we want to finish ahead of them. In order to finish ahead of them, you have to beat them.”


Twitter: @tkulfan