Red Wings stave off Flyers comeback, get 2 goals from Vrana in 6-3 win
Detroit — The Red Wings saw their 3-0 lead whittled down to a one-goal advantage, and momentum had swung to the Flyers here Tuesday night.
The next goal scored at Little Caesars Arena was going to be big, and Jakub Vrana’s second goal of the game at 18:51 of the second period indeed paved the way to a 6-3 victory that made Detroit 3-0 against Philadelphia this season.
Dylan Larkin, getting the 350th assist of his career, made a deft pass cruising in from the left on goalie Carter Hart, and Vrana swooped in from the right for a one-timer that gave him five goals in seven games since returning from shoulder surgery.
“I was just hoping he saw me and he did,” said Vrana. “I was behind him, and it was a great play by him. … It’s great to see the guys don’t give up on anything. We just kept pushing.”
Larkin and defenseman Gustav Lindstrom assisted on the 20th goal of the season for rookie Lucas Raymond, who also fired a one-timer past Hart at 1:07 of the second period for that three-goal lead.
Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee (13th goal) and Oskar Lindblom (11th) scored to cut the lead to one. Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny assisted on both second period tallies.
Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk made it a one-goal deficit once again for his team at 11:23 of the third period, but that was the last time they beat goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who made 30 saves.
“When they scored to make it 4-3 they had more momentum,” said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill. “They were playing better than us and (Nedeljkovic) made big saves in big moments.”
Rookie center Joe Veleno got the game’s scoring started by swooping unimpeded from behind the net to notch his seventh of the season. Givani Smith, who earned an assist along with Filip Hronek, and just-acquired forward Oskar Sundqvist created traffic in front and attracted defensive attention.
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said earlier Tuesday that the size (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) and grit Sundqvist brings in front of the net was one of the reasons he was acquired from the St. Louis Blues Monday along with defenseman Jake Walman. Sundqvist played forward on Veleno’s line along with Smith (6-2, 215).
“Both guys are big men and Givani’s done pretty good with that all year,” said Blashill. “Oskar can do the same thing. They forecheck hard, they get pucks. They get to the net. They’re hard at the net and I think that allows space and makes it hard on the other team’s goalie.
“It’s hard to score if you’re not at the net. The goalies are too good.”
Blashill said of Walman and Sundqvist: “Both played real good.” He added that Sundqvist, who won a Stanley Cup in 2019 with the Blues, brings “a veteran presence” and “knows how to win hockey games.”
Sundqvist put the game away with an empty-netter at 17:09 of the third period. It was his fifth of the season and first for the Red Wings. He assisted on Tyler Bertuzzi’s empty-netter, his 25th of the season, with just over one minute remaining.
“His spark and his experience is going to help this team,” Blashill added on Sundqvist.
Vrana’s first goal of the game came at 9:15 of the first period, and he scored on a pass from behind the net from Bertuzzi by chipping the puck over Hart’s shoulder.
Staal pre-game tribute memorable
Detroit defenseman Marc Staal received a fitting tribute from the team in honor of playing his 1,000th career game March 12 in Calgary. It had to feel like Christmas morning with all the gifts, and hugs and kisses from family members.
Wings general manager Steve Yzerman presented Staal an inscribed Rolex on behalf of Marian and Christopher Ilitch and the Red Wings Hockey Operations Team and a Tiffany Crystal from the NHL commemorating his accomplishment. Captain Larkin handed him an inscribed silver stick along with special silver mini sticks for each of his three young children, and teammate Sam Gagner (who played in his 950th game) delivered a red envelope with the details of a fishing trip this summer for him and his brothers to the Miminiska Lodge located on Lake Superior just north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.
Wife Lindsay accompanied their children onto the ice along with his parents, Linda and Henry Staal of Thunder Bay. They watched a video tribute to his career, messages from his three brothers and the pride and joy of his life – little Jack, Emily and Anna each saying, “I love you, Daddy.”
Marc joined Eric and Jordan as the league’s first trio of 1,000-game brothers. Youngest brother Jared, who also played briefly in the NHL, is an assistant coach for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
His father was interviewed in-house on the video board, and said, “They loved the game as kids. They just love to play the game.”
They got all the practice they wanted on the homemade rink on the 600-acre sod farm, and became the second-most famous name from Thunder Bay. Henry said he never met David Letterman band leader and sidekick Paul Shaffer, but noted that Paul Shaffer Drive surrounds the Thunder Bay Auditorium.
Co-host Art Regner asked his father if the Staals are getting a street named for them. Henry smiled and said, “We’re working on it.”
Tributes from former teammates were shown throughout the game, and the Flyers’ starting lineup tapping their sticks on the ice during Staal’s ceremony signified their respect for him.
Staal registered his 10th assist of the season on Bertuzzi’s goal.
Henry also discussed the Staal Family Foundation (www.staalfoundation.org) they’ve created to benefit charitable cancer causes and programs. The website states the foundation was “inspired by our own family loss to cancer” and has raised $4.95 million over nine years.