The Detroit Red Wings earned their first win of the 2020-2021 season on Saturday night, earning a hard-fought (if sloppy) 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Wings split their 2-game series against Carolina, and a 2-game, back-to-back series with the 0-and-2 Columbus Blue Jackets lurks on Monday (at 12 PM) and Tuesday.
In terms of rounding up the recaps that are available, the Hurricanes were particularly disappointed by their loss–and the way it started–as they told CarolinaHurricanes.com’s Michael Smith:
“It wasn’t that we didn’t work hard. We didn’t play our game,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I didn’t know what I was watching for two periods. That’s what really frustrated me.”
What was the reason for the slow start? It begins with preparation, and the Canes, for whatever reason, weren’t ready to meet the challenge from the drop of the puck.
“Preparation is all mental. It’s on each and every one of us individually to prepare for each game. It’s the NHL. It’s pro hockey. You’ve got to be ready to come every night. We weren’t tonight,” Vincent Trocheck said. “We just didn’t bring it.”
With the game tied at two late in regulation, the Canes survived a flurry of chances on a Red Wings power play. Then, it was Fabbri who snuck a shot through for the game-winner with 2:42 remaining. Dylan Larkin added an empty-netter to seal it, a split in the season-opening series between the two teams.
“If we compete on a night-to-night basis like we did in game one, we have a chance every night,” Trocheck said. “Tonight we just didn’t bring that compete level. They outworked us and wanted it more. The end result showed that.”
Brind’Amour continued while speaking with the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander:
“I didn’t like the start, I didn’t like the first two periods,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said on the postgame media call. “We played all right in the third. We had some compete. But to me the game was already determined because we gave away 40 minutes. You can’t do that in this league.
“They worked hard for 60 minutes and we didn’t. It’s the NHL. You’ve got to be ready every night. You’ve got to respect every shift.”
Andrei Svechnikov, who mirrored the team’s slow start Saturday, had a goal and assist in the third period for Carolina. Svechnikov first unloaded a shot on the power play in the first minute of the period, the puck hitting off Vincent Trocheck’s leg and past goalie Jonathan Bernier for a 1-1 tie — Svechnikov’s 100th career NHL point.
Larkin gave the Wings a 2-1 lead just 18 seconds later when his centering pass from behind the Canes net glanced off Trocheck’s skate and past Mrazek.
But Svechnikov, who had an empty-net goal Thursday in the season opener, beat Bernier with a rising shot for a 2-2 tie at 8:56 of the third off a Jordan Martinook pass.
The North State Journal’s Cory Lavalette gave Svechnikov due praise…
Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes forward — Svechnikov took a hit in the second period, and from that point forward he was the best player on the ice. His shot on the power play probably goes in even if it doesn’t glance off of Trocheck, and he tied the game a second time with a quick spinning shot in between the circles in the third.
He finished with a goal and an assist along with a team-high five hits in the loss.
“He took it on himself to get going,” Brind’Amour said of Svechnikov. “He knew he wasn’t playing great, and then he led the way in a third.”
Svechnikov agreed that he and the Hurricanes were flat for the opening two periods.
“Immediately after the game, Rod said, ‘It’s all about compete,’” Svechnikov said. “I think he’s right. We were a little bit off today, and those things matter. We gotta just outwork those guys and compete more.”
But Lavalette wasn’t the only one to notice that the Red Wings’ ice surface has been subpar:
There probably weren’t many new fans of hockey made watching the first two periods of this one. The ice was choppy (at best), and the Red Wings seemed content playing a sloppy game that limited speed and chances. Once Bobby Ryan scored early in the second period, Detroit seemed content to play a lot of dump-and-chase hockey and clutter the middle of the ice to make things as tough on Carolina as possible. Thankfully, the third period included more chances and goals.
As we all know, the ice at Little Caesars Arena remains a work in progress.
Anyway, the Hurricanes offered their dismay to NHL.com’s Dave Hogg, telling Hogg that the Red Wings “did their homework” (per Trocheck) on the Hurricanes…
“We gave away the first 40 minutes of the game,” Hurricanes coach Rob Brind’Amour said. “I thought yesterday hurt us, just sitting around in the hotel. I think that’s a big reason we started the game slow, and I’ve got to do a better job of figuring that out.”
The Hurricanes nearly took the lead at 6:47 of the first period, but Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek slid across the goal line to block Svechnikov’s shot with Bernier out of position.
Ryan then made it 1-0 at 3:44 of the second period, scoring on a one-timer from the left circle after Zadina intercepted a drop pass by Hurricanes defenseman Jake Gardiner.
“When I’m out there with Bobby, I’m trying to get him the puck,” Zadina said. “He’s been in this league for a long time and he scores goals. It’s a blast being able to play with someone like him.”
Vincent Trocheck scored 28 seconds into the third period to tie it 1-1 when he deflected Svechnikov’s initial shot on the power play, but Larkin scored 18 seconds later to make it 2-1 when his backhand pass to the front of the net deflected in off Trocheck’s stick and Brady Skjei‘s skate.
“The puck has been bouncing like crazy during these first two games, so I was just trying to throw it in front of the net and try to hit [Anthony Mantha], but it went in off their guys,” Larkin said.
And the Red Wings were happy to tell the Associated Press that they out-worked their opponents:
“They’ve got a deep D core over there, but they looked tired out by the end,” Larkin said. “We really ground them down.”
Fabbri fluttered the puck past Petr Mrazek from the front of the crease off a pass from Filip Zadina behind the net. Zadina also set up Bobby Ryan to score in his Red Wings debut, breaking a scoreless tie early in the second period, after the veteran forward missed the opener with an injury.
“We’ve been skating with (Ryan) for months, so we know what we can do,” Larkin said. “It was huge for the whole hockey team for him to get that one.
“He wanted to come here and you could see how fired up he was to put on the jersey.”
Larkin scored a tiebreaking goal early in the third just 18 seconds after Carolina went ahead. Detroit’s Jonathan Bernier finished with 29 saves in his season debut.
“I thought we were deeper as a team,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We had four lines and six D going. Bobby really helps us with depth scoring.”
MLive’s Ansar Khan offered several observations regarding the game…
Ryan scored at 2:44 of the second period, the game’s only goal through two periods.
Zadina stole the puck from Warren Foegele in the corner and quickly passed to the slot area, where Ryan was set-up for the one-timer.
The Red Wings did a good job killing back-to-back penalties on Danny DeKeyser and Mathias Brome midway through the first period, holding the Hurricanes to just one shot.
Vladislav Namestnikov had the best scoring chance, a semi-breakaway that Petr Mrazek turned aside. Mrazek denied Namestnikov on another breakaway in the third period.
Filip Hronek made the best save of the period, falling to his knees in the crease to block a shot while Bernier was out of position during a scramble.
As did the Free Press’s Helene St. James…
The Ryan factor: Ryan missed Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury. He skated Saturday on a line with Robby Fabbri and Zadina, bumping Namestnikov onto the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Sam Gagner. Brome, another new face, played on the fourth line with Luke Glendening and Adam Erne, bumping Frans Nielsen from the lineup. The Wings see Ryan, who shoots right, as someone who could be an asset on power plays. When they got one at 13:35 of the first period, though, Fabbri’s group with Gagner, Zadina, Filip Hronek and Jon Merrill, nominally the No. 2 unit, only got 20-odd seconds of man-advantage time, and Ryan never made it onto the ice.
Taking shots: The Wings did a better job of getting shots through than in the opener. Larkin’s line with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi looked more like their usual selves during a shift in the second period when they maintained possession of the puck with crisp passes. Newcomers Merrill and Troy Stecher both got shots through. The Wings had 14 shots after two periods, which is as many as they had total in the opener. The Wings finished with 21 shots.
While the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan offered some quotes “from the room,” or, more accurately, “from the Zoom calls”:
“We competed extremely hard, that’s the level of compete you need in order to have a chance to win in this league,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That was the biggest thing that stood out for me. Between our work ethic and compete, I was real happy.
“The other thing is, we were deeper as a team. We had four lines going pretty hard, not everybody gets as much ice time as they’d like, but all four lines were going and all six defensemen went well. Ultimately, we’ll have to win that way.”
The Wings’ last victory? March 8, 2020, when they defeated eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa 5-4 in a shootout — a few days before the pandemic closed most every sport.
And considering the sluggish way the Wings opened the season against Carolina, Saturday’s victory was needed and felt good.
“We got timely goals and we outplayed a great team,” Larkin said.
“Between the fresh faces and (ten) months between seasons, I didn’t feel, like, any residual effect from a year ago,” Blashill said. “A year ago when we got scored on, it felt like we got scored on 10 times. Tonight, I just thought we did a good job of keep on playing and we got right out and scored (after Carolina tied the score in the third period) and got a huge response, and we responded again with the game winning goal.”
Dylan Larkin put things bluntly to DetroitRedWings.com’s Josh Berenter, regarding Bobby Ryan’s goal and passionate play:
In a week of firsts, where Dylan Larkin became the first Michigan-born captain in franchise history, Mathias Brome played his first NHL game and the Detroit Red Wings played their first COVID-19-era game, it’s only fitting that the first goal of Detroit’s season was scored by Bobby Ryan, playing in his first game with the Wings.
Larkin also got his first two goals as Red Wings captain and Detroit earned its first win of the season, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-2, on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
Larkin said it was obvious that Ryan was amped to put on the Winged Wheel jersey for the first time and said Ryan’s presence is a big lift in the lineup.
“You can tell he was fired up to put that jersey on tonight and we need guys like that,” Larkin said about Ryan, who missed the season opener with an injury in training camp. “He wanted to come here, he wanted to be on our team and help us become a better team and he’s certainly doing that. It’s huge having him in the lineup and I couldn’t be happier for him getting one tonight.”
It was great to see Larkin hit his stride so early in the regular season, too.
Update: Here’s a bit from The Athletic’s Max Bultman:
“We just kept going,” Larkin said. “We scored huge goals and timely goals, and I thought we outplayed a great team tonight.”
The goals, in a literal sense, are all that count in the end. But they’re not all that matter. So while Larkin’s two-goal game (he added an empty-netter) and Zadina’s two assists will get top billing, it’s worth noting that the Red Wings’ display of resolve Saturday wasn’t just on the plays that regained their leads.
It was Fabbri, one game after a rocky opener in the faceoff circle, responding immediately to win nearly half his draws, and the rest of the Red Wings being better helping their centers to win 53 percent of faceoffs overall. It was Filip Hronek laying his body on the line to stop multiple shots in short succession that all would have gone for easy goals, even squaring one of them up like a goalie. It was the Red Wings nearly halving their giveaways, two nights after sloppiness cost them significantly (although they were still far from perfect there Saturday). And it was a less-heralded aspect of Zadina’s game, his puck hunting, that set up Bobby Ryan’s first goal as a Red Wing and gave Detroit its first lead of the season in the second period.
That side of Zadina’s play had stood out during training camp, but Detroit coach Jeff Blashill hadn’t been as pleased with it in the opener. As with so many other players and facets of Detroit’s game, though, it bounced back Saturday. Zadina finished with three takeaways and no giveaways to go with his two assists in just over 13 minutes, a tidy stat line that highlights his continued progression into a player who can help Detroit in ways subtle and loud.
“He’s stripping pucks, he’s moving his feet,” Larkin said. “Those (assists) were two huge plays for us, poised plays, and I hope it helps his confidence. That line with him, Fabs and Bobby were great for us tonight, and we’re going to need them to be great all year.”
Photos: The Detroit Free Press posted a 26-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted a 30-image gallery;
And NHL.com posted a 45-image gallery.
Post-game: The Hurricanes’ website posted clips of Evgeny Svechnikov…
And coach Rod Brind’Amour’s post-game comments:
The Red Wings posted a combined clip of comments from Dylan Larkin, Filip Zadina and coach Jeff Blashill’s remarks:
The Free Press posted the full interviews with Larkin, Zadina and Blashill:
Highlights: Both NHL.com and Sportsnet posted highlight clips: