'Felt like Game 7': Red Wings lose opener in Dylan Larkin's debut as captain
Detroit – A mere 310 days later, things haven’t changed much for the Red Wings.
It was a long, long time since the Wings played a hockey game, due to the pandemic, but victories continue to be hard to come by.
Carolina defeated the Wings in the NHL regular season opener Thursday 3-0 at Little Caesars Arena.
Nino Niederreiter scored a first period goal, Ryan Dzingel (power play) added a late third period goal and Andrei Svechnikov added an empty net goal a few seconds later, while Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek — a former Red Wing — only had to stop a measly 13 shots.
"Early in the game we were playing really well, we came out and did a lot of things we needed to do," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We didn't get a lot of (offensive) chances but until they scored, we played well. In the third period, we ended up defending too much."
The Hurricanes did a good job bottling up the Wings, who didn't get much going offensively.
"The first period felt like Game 7 of a playoff series with no lanes and guys were right on top of you," forward Dylan Larkin said. "It seemed like not many plays were to be made. As the game went on it got a little better. We have to tilt the ice in our favor."
Curiously it was Carolina who defeated the Wings at LCA March 10 (that game ended 5-2) before the NHL paused its season because of the coronavirus.
The Hurricanes were able to play last summer as the NHL returned to finish its playoffs. But the Red Wings weren’t invited, and haven’t played for 10 months.
And for most of the evening, it showed.
The Wings were outshot 43-14, including 13-5 in the first period and 12-6 in the middle period, and a staggering 18-3 in the final period.
"One of things when you're an offensive player, and our guys aren't young necessarily anymore, but one of the things is you press for offense and you end up kind of leaking to the offensive side of every battle," Blashill said. "Kind of skating away from the puck hoping to get a break, and as a result, you end up defending too much. You don't get the chance to tilt the ice."
Wings goaltender Thomas Greiss had a fine debut, stopping 40 shots and singlehandedly keeping the score a one-goal game through most of the evening.
Greiss made huge consecutive stops on Teuvo Teravainen and Vincent Trocheck early in the third period, keeping the Wings within a goal, 1-0.
"He was unreal, really good, he saved us a lot of times out there," said forward Mathias Brome of Greiss. "He showed he's a great goalie."
The Wings were 0-for-2 on the power play, and killed two of three Hurricanes power plays.
"We have to execute better (on the power play)," Blashill said. "We have to do a better job on it."
After getting two shots on Mrazek in the opening two minutes of the game, the Wings only had three the remainder of the first period.
Carolina sustained offensive pressure, was physical in its own zone, and kept the Wings nowhere near Mrazek.
Niederreiter opened the game’s and season’s scoring at 3 minutes 38 seconds into the first period.
Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho carried the puck into the Wings’ zone, drew the Wings to him, and shuttled a backhand pass to Niederreiter alone in the slot.
Niederreiter calmy beat Greiss, who was left all alone, forcing the Wings into a familiar position — falling behind.
The Hurricanes got some cushion in the third period on Dzingel's power play goal at 17:26, redirecting a shot from the point.
Larkin and Patrik Nemeth each took consecutive penalties, keeping Carolina on the power play and forcing the Wings to defend.
The Wings' top two scoring lines generated little offense.
The second line (Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri, Vladislav Namestnikov) were credited with three shots and four giveaways (Zadina had three giveaways and no shots on net).
The Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi line had five shots on net but weren't impactful.
Thursday's game was unusual on many levels, as the NHL season got underway in Detroit.
Because of the pandemic, there were no fans except for a smattering of family and friends of the players (the limit allowed is 250 fans).
For the most part, the feel of the game was the same. The music was pumping when you'd normally expect, the video scoreboard flashed pictures, videos, messages and highlights. The light crew did its job.
And before the game, as you'd expect, there were pre-game introductions of the Wings' roster, including saving new captain Dylan Larkin for last.
But, with no fans in the building, it definitely left a huge void in the evening.
The Wings again host Carolina Saturday (7 p.m./Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 The Ticket) to complete the two-game, baseball-style series which are the norm this season in the NHL to lessen travel amid the pandemic.
"Everything good comes from checking well and managing the puck and we forced too many plays," Blashill said. "We tried to make things up that weren't there and the next thing you know you're defending and chasing back. It taxes you."