The Detroit Red Wings’ first road win of the season, a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, was almost as shocking as Anthony Mantha’s healthy scratch. The Red Wings snapped an 8-game losing streak, a 6-game winless streak, and ended the 6-0-and-2 Panthers’ 8-game unbeaten streak. According to Ken Daniels, Sunday’s win was the first Red Wings win in the state of Florida in 20 tries, which isn’t necessarily surprising given how much the Wings struggle against the Panthers and Lightning.
More surprisingly, the Wings did all of the above while playing without the services of the injured Tyler Bertuzzi, the healthy Anthony Mantha, and, for the majority of the game, Luke Glendening, who absorbed a nasty hit to the chin from Radko Gudas halfway through the first period.
The near-shocking nature of the Wings’ ability to knock off the NHL’s last unbeaten team was no less satisfying due to its complications. The Wings will doubtlessly face a tougher Panthers team come Tuesday, when the teams rematch in Sunrise, but the Wings–and their fans–desperately needed some good things to happen, from the previously-winless Thomas Greiss to Givani “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” Smith, and everyone in between, and Sunday’s game was finally an example of the “repeatable” hockey that the Wings insisted could produce a winning game for them.
Our friends from the Sunshine State were not thrilled with themselves after Sunday’s loss, as Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards noted…
Detroit ended its eight-game personal losing streak to the Panthers — while Florida’s 10-game point streak (9-0-1) against the Wings also came to a close.
But most importantly for the Panthers was the end of their run if games to pick up at least a point to start this season. Florida had opened 6-0-2 and were the only team left in the NHL which had not lost a game in regulation in 2021.
That is over, too.
It was a heck of a run for the Panthers — one that nonetheless ends in disappointment with a loss to one of the worst teams in the NHL albeit one which plays Florida tough.
”This didn’t go the way we planned,” said Alex Wennberg, the only Florida player to score Sunday. ”It’s not the result we wanted but there are a lot of things you can learn from this. We can look at it, be better next game.”
Coach Joel Quenneville told FloridaPanthers.com’s Jameson Olive that Sunday’s game was something of an aberration…
“Today was one of those games where it seemed like we were chasing the game more than we have in the past,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t get an equalizer at all and played from behind.”
Following an active yet scoreless opening period, the Red Wings broke the ice when Marc Staal tracked down a loose puck in the slot and sent a shot past goaltender Chris Driedger to make it 1-0 at 2:58 of the second period. At 17:02, Detroit extended its lead to 2-0 when a turnover led to a goal for Givani Smith.
In addition to his goal, Smith added an assist and fight in the third to complete a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Getting the Panthers on the board, Alex Wennberg re-directed in a long shot from the blue line past goaltender Thomas Greiss to cut Detroit’s lead down to 2-1 at 2:09 of third period. Unfortunately, the Red Wings answered right back at 9:11 with a goal from Robby Fabbri from in front that made it 3-1.
With 2:42 left in regulation, Vladislav Namestnikov scored an empty-net goal to make it 4-1.
“Outside of today’s game, I thought we’ve been consistent in most games,” Quenneville said. “Whether ahead or behind or in tie game, we seem to be playing the same way and don’t change the approach and stick with it… A lot of good, positive things here starting off in the right fashion. It’s going to be a test every night. Getting back on the right track is going to be what we’re looking to do on Tuesday.”
But the Panthers did give credit to Thomas Greiss for his part in stopping their efforts…
Greiss always seems to be at his best against the Panthers. Entering this afternoon’s matchup owning a 5-3-2 record, 2.28 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his career against Florida – not including an incredible playoff series with the New York Islanders back in 2016 – the 35-year-old veteran goaltender stopped 36 of 37 shots to pick up the win.
“On every shot, he was there,” Huberdeau said of Greiss, who earned his first victory with the Red Wings. “He wasn’t giving up good rebounds outside of his crease. He was really good. Like I said, we’ve just got to come back Tuesday, be better and find the back of the net.”
And Huberdeau concluded his remarks while speaking with NHL.com’s Alain Poupart:
“They’re a good team,” Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. “They work hard. Greiss was really good tonight, but we had some chances. He stopped a lot of pucks. I think they deserved it a little bit more than us. I think we’ve got to forget about it, our first loss in regulation, and come back and be ready for the next one.”
Marc Staal scored his first goal with the Red Wings at 2:58 of the second period on a backhand after he collected the puck in front of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Wennberg made it 2-1 at 2:09 of the third when he tipped Anton Stralman‘s shot from the point.
Robby Fabbri gave Detroit a 3-1 lead at 9:11 when he scored on a rebound of Smith’s shot from the slot. The goal came less than a minute after Greiss made a save against Owen Tippett on an odd-man rush with Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
“We had a 3-on-1 with all the right guys on the ice with it, and the next thing you know it’s 3-1 instead of 2-2,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “That was a turning point for us in the game. Driedger gave us a chance. Obviously, we didn’t press enough there at the end.”
For the Red Wings, even though Sunday’s win is the start of a 2-game series, they were satisfied with their efforts as–again–“repeatable,” as coach Blashill told Poupart:
“I thought we competed extremely hard,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought we were committed to trying to play the right way. We weren’t perfect; we gave up chances and when we gave up chances, I thought Greiss was great. In this league, you’ve got to have really good goaltending to win and you got to play the right way and I thought we did that.”
“You need results to build confidence,” Blashill said. “I talk about process lots, but I talked about this today, ultimately you need results to build confidence. Getting the result today is huge, and I think we played the type of game we’ve got to play to be successful. We competed really, really hard and we defended and checked well. Those are the things we’re going to have to do to be successful, and I also think we got to their net.
“We scored goals because we were hard at their net. Ultimately all the goals are scored around the net and we did a good job there and then you get the timely goaltending.”
Blashill continued while speaking with the Associated Press:
”Losing is never fun. We made some steps last game against Tampa that we carried over into tonight right off the hop and I think the biggest thing was we kept it going for 60 minutes,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. ”That’s the biggest thing. That’s how we’re going to win games and beat teams is to outwork them, outwill them and we proved that tonight.”
Greiss, who moved to 1-7-2, stopped a three-on-one Florida break with the Red Wings ahead 2-1 in the third period.
”He’s done that a lot this year … we just haven’t been able to capitalize off a great save like that, sort of nice to get one tonight,” Blashill said.
Alex Wennberg scored for the Panthers. Florida (6-1-2) became the last NHL team to lose in regulation.
Acquired from the New York Rangers in a trade last September after a 13-year career, Staal put Detroit up 1-0 at 2:58 of the second period with his backhander in close. Sam Gagner notched his first assist with the Red Wings on the goal.
Blashill made the decision to scratch Anthony Mantha, but Smith stepped up with a big goal.
Bobby Ryan’s steal near goaltender Chris Driedger set up Smith’s score at 17:02 for a 2-0 lead.
”The only thing I can really do is every time I’m in the lineup, just to work my hardest, work my best and hopefully it can pay off in the long run,” Smith said.
Smith didn’t even know what a Gordie Howe Hat Trick was until today, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“No, I never heard of it,” said Smith after the game, of the hat trick named after the Wings’ legend. “After the game, they (teammates) were saying I got one but I’m not sure what it is.”
But aside from the definition, Smith was pleased to contribute to the victory.
“It’s going pretty good,” Smith said. “I had a long break to prepare (for the season) and I just wanted to be humanly ready to prepare for moments like these and opportunities to play.”
Smith brings attributes of size and physicality, along with sneaky skill, that the Wings could use on a regular basis.
“Tonight was a great example of what he brings to the team, what he’s been bringing every night he’s been in the lineup,” forward Robby Fabbri said. “He’s had a great mentality and mindset around the rink coming in when he’s needed and doing his job. He did a little bit of everything with the hits, goals, fight, assists. That’s what we need from him every night he’s in the lineup.”
Fabbri sounded like his coach when he discussed the Wings’ losing streak with Kulfan:
“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.”
Again, the coach was a happy man after the game, at least in terms of systems play…
“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.”
And the coach was satisfied with his decision to scratch Mantha, as he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“I just made the decision to go with the group I went with,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Any conversation I had with Anthony is private. I’m not going go to comment further.”
Teammate Robby Fabbri, who recorded his second goal of the season after being sidelined for most of the season by COVID-19, raved about Smith.
“It was a great example of what he brings to the team,” Fabbri said. “He has had a great mentality coming in and doing what is needed. He did a little bit of everything with a hit, a goal and an assist. That’s what we need out of him.”
Smith, the 46th overall pick in 2016, had not heard of a Gordie Howe hat trick until informed by teammates. Named after the franchise legend, Smith completed the feat when he fought Aaron Ekblad — after scoring the Wings’ second goal and setting up Fabbri’s.
Smith’s goal and assist gave him four points in six games. He has been on and off the taxi squad, trying to make a case that, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he can bring goals as well as grit to the lineup
““The only thing I can really do is, the only time I am in the lineup, work my hardest and hopefully it pays off in the long run,” Smith said.
Don’t be surprised if Smith is sent to the taxi squad today or tomorrow as a “paper move.” FYI.
For the record, Smith isn’t a “great quote,” either–he’s a bit of a cliche machine when it comes to speaking with the media–but DetroitRedWings.com’s Brett McWethy made due with what he was given:
“It feels good,” said Smith about his growing confidence. “Playing against Stamkos, Barkoff, and especially being on a line with Robby (Fabbri), Bobby (Ryan), Dylan (Larkin) and Z (Filip Zadina), it’s hard to not play with confidence when you look along the side of you and you’ve got superstars, just great, hard-working guys.”
Florida quickly trimmed its deficit in half (2-1) with 17:51 remaining in the third period. Anton Stralman fired a shot from the blue line that was tipped out of mid-air on a backhand by Alex Wennberg, who recorded his first goal in a Panthers sweater.
Just under nine minutes later (9:11), Stecher and Smith set up a goal that pushed the Red Wings’ lead back to two goals, 3-1. Stecher crossed the puck into an attacking Smith, who took a shot that was rebounded into the back of the net by Robby Fabbri. It marked Stecher and Smith’s first multi-point games of the season, and Fabbri’s first goal since Jan. 16 against Carolina prior to being sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.
Center Vladislav Namestnikov added an unassisted empty-netter with 2:42 remaining – his second goal in three days – to complete the game’s scoring.
“Losing’s never fun. We made some steps last game against Tampa that we carried over into tonight, you know, right off the hop,” Fabbri said. “I think the biggest thing was we kept it going for 60 minutes. That’s the biggest thing, that’s how we’re going to win games and beat teams. To outwork them, outwill them and we proved that tonight.”
There was even good news on the injury front, per MLive’s Ansar Khan:
Blashill said Luke Glendening was feeling better after taking a shoulder check to the head from Radko Gudas in the first period. Glendening did not return to the game.
“I just talked to Luke; he seemed like he was in a good spot,” Blashill said. “We’ll see where he’s at for Tuesday’s game.”
The Red Wings and Panthers meet again at BB&T Center on Tuesday (7 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit Plus).
The Panthers will throw everything they’ve got at the Wings on Tuesday, so we’ll see what Detroit can do as the “known quantity” instead of the “surprise team.”
Highlights: Here are Sportsnet and the NHL’s highlights:
Post-game: Fox Sports Florida kept things brief, with Alexander Wennberg and Jonathan Huberdeau weighing in on their loss:
The Panthers’ website posted a 1:24 clip of Wennberg, Huberdeau and coach Joel Quenneville’s remarks:
Fox Sports Detroit posted clips of Thomas Greiss, Robby Fabbri, Givani Smith and coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks:
FSD posted a bit of wisdom from Mickey Redmond as well:
The Red Wings’ website also posted a combined clip of Fabbri, Smith and Blashill’s comments:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 10-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 13-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 25-image gallery.