Red Wings erupt for two goals in third, put away Panthers for 'huge' win to end 8-game slide
The chicken tenders and variety of party snacks tasted a little better for Red Wings fans.
Marc Staal and Givani Smith, not usual offensive producers, and Robby Fabbri and Vladislav Namestnikov (empty net) had goals and goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped 36 shots Sunday as the Wings defeated Florida 4-1 in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee.
Smith added an assist on Fabbri’s goal, and later got into a fight with Florida’s Aaron Ekblad after Smith had a big hit on Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar.
The victory ended an eight-game winless streak for the Wings (3-8-2), who hadn’t won since Jan. 19, defeating Columbus in overtime.
"Losing is never fun," Fabbri said. "We made some steps last game against Tampa and we carried that over into tonight right off the hop. The biggest thing is we kept it going for 60 minutes, that's the biggest thing, that's how we're going to win games, to outwork and out-will the other team and we proved that tonight."
The victory was the first for Greiss as a Red Wing (1-7-2) in 10 decisions.
Florida’s Alex Wennberg sliced the Wings' lead to 2-1 at 2:09 of the third period and put doubt into all the Wings’ fans getting ready for the Super Bowl.
But Greiss made a huge stop on a 3-on-1 Florida rush, and the Wings converted on the other end shortly after, with Fabbri giving the Wings a 3-1 lead at 9:11 putting in a loose puck lying in front of the crease.
"Certainly he has played good enough through large stretches of this year to have one (victory) and we didn't give him enough offense," coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's deserved (a victory) earlier in the year, so it was good for him to get it."
Namestnikov salted the game away with an empty-net goal, the Wings earned their first road victory since Feb. 6, 2020, a 4-3 shootout win at Buffalo.
Defenseman Anton Stralman lined a shot from the point that Wennberg tipped near the net and beat Greiss.
The Wings were without forward Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) heading into the game, and lost two more forwards during the afternoon.
Anthony Mantha was a surprise healthy scratch, Blashill deciding to go without the Wings' inconsistent power forward. Then in the first period, Luke Glendening (upper body) was lost for the game after taking a hit near the head area from Florida defenseman Radko Gudas.
But the Wings persevered and stuck to a defensive mindset that was impressive in its effectiveness. Blashill was pleased to see the effort rewarded.
"You need results to build confidence," Blashill said. "I talk about process a lot and ultimately you need results to build confidence and getting the result today is huge. We played the type of game we have to play to be successful. We competed real hard and we defended and checked well.
"Those are the things we'll have to do to be successful. We got to their net and scored goals and we were hard at their net, and did a good job there, and then you get the timely goaltending."
Staal scored his first as a Wing at 2:58 of the second period, giving the Wings a 1-0 lead.
Staal’s defensive partner Troy Stecher lifted a shot from the top of the slot. The puck deflected off the stick of Sam Gager and slid to Staal, who drove through the slot and backhanded a shot past Florida goalie Chris Driedger.
Staal’s goal was only the second goal by a Red Wing defenseman this season (Danny DeKeyser has the other).
Smith extended the lead to 2-0 late in the period.
Smith stripped the puck from Florida defenseman Keith Yandle near Driedger’s net. Bobby Ryan got the puck, and found Smith in front of the net, Smith quickly wristed a shot past Driedger at 17:02, also Smith’s first goal this season.
With each inspired game, Smith is making a case to stay in the lineup.
"The only thing I can do is every time I'm in the lineup, just work my hardest and best, and hopefully that can pay off in the long run," Smith said.