Red Wings-Lightning wrap-up: a ‘learning experience’ loss against the defending champs

The Detroit Red Wings were delivered a gut punch and a half by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, ultimately dropping a 7-6 OT decision to the Bolts on a night where Tyler Bertuzzi scored 4 goals, Dylan larkin was kicked out of the game for accosting Mathieu Joseph, who cross-checked Larkin into the boards from behind, and Detroit blew three 3-goal leads.

It was a wild, woolly, and raucous affair, and a game where the Red Wings were unable to win the special teams battle, the battle for faceoffs, or, ultimately, defend well enough against one of the NHL’s most explosive teams.

There were positives for the Red Wings to take out of the game, to be sure–scoring seven goals in a game is not something that last year’s Red Wings could do, the Wings did generate scoring from 11 different skaters, and while Alex Nedeljkovic gave up 7 goals on 48 shots, there’s no doubt that the Wings would not have earned a point without their newly-minted goaltender.

It just stunk that Detroit was unable to hold the lead on such an exciting night for Larkin and his compatriots, and it stunk that the Wings found themselves on the losing end of yet another loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of their first sellout crowd in ages.

As you might imagine, the Lightning were borderline satisfied with their collective and individual games, as they told the Tampa Bay Times’ Eduardo A. Encina:

“There’s some things we need to clean up in our game still,” defenseman Victor Hedman told reporters in Detroit. “But there’s not a lot of teams in this league that can come back being down three goals with six minutes left and come back and win. So it says a lot about the character in our room and in the never-die moments like that, we’re just fun to watch.”

Hedman had four assists, including the primary assist on Tampa Bay’s final three goals. In the 3-on-3 overtime, Hedman sped into the offensive zone and, from the right dot, flicked the puck in front of the net, where a streaking Palat tipped it past Red Wings goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.

“It was a wild game,” Palat said in a postgame interview with Bally Sports Sun.

With Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy pulled for an extra attacker, Hedman picked off an errant clearing attempt by Nedeljkovic in the corner and made a quick backhanded feed to Alex Killorn in front of the net to set up the tying goal with 2:19 left in the third.

The win came after the Lightning followed Tuesday’s pregame banner raising with a surprisingly flat performance in their season opener, falling 6-2 to the Penguins on home ice.

“There’s a little bit of a winning pedigree in that locker room,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And they’ve shown that fight before. And especially after the performance on opening night, it was paramount that we had to come away with with points in this game, and to get two I was pretty proud of the guys.”

Coach Cooper stewed about Larkin’s “cheap shot” on Mathieu Joseph, as you’ll see below in the post-game clips, and Stamkos wasn’t impressed with what he called a “sucker punch,” either, as he told the AP’s Larry Lage:

Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin scored the game’s first goal early in the first period. Larkin’s night ended midway through the second period with a match penalty for retaliating to Mathieu Joseph’s check from behind into the boards by punching him in the face.

”Obviously, he’s mad about you know the borderline hit there, but there’s different ways to go about it,” Stamkos said. ”You can grab a guy and then punch him in the face. But it’s just an unsuspecting guy, it’s a sucker punch.”

After Bertuzzi’s hat trick gave Detroit a three-goal lead in the second, Stamkos scored twice in the period to cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 4-3.

Bertuzzi scored his fourth goal early in the third and Vladislav Namestnikov had a goal midway through the period to give the Red Wings a three-goal cushion that wasn’t large enough.

”If you give them space, they are going to create offensive opportunities,” Bertuzzi said. ”We gave them too many chances.”

Stamkos and Cooper continued while speaking with NHL.com’s Dave Hogg

“To me, the right team won the game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Bertuzzi, who hadn’t played since Jan. 30 due to a back injury that required surgery, became the first Red Wings player to score four goals in a season opener.

“It was great to be back out there and have the fans back in the building,” Bertuzzi said. “This is a tough loss. That’s a very good team, but we made too many mistakes.”

Nikita Kucherov (one goal, three assists) and Victor Hedman (four assists) each scored four points, and Steven Stamkos had two goals and an assist for the Lightning, who responded from a 6-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 20 saves.

“We could have easily quit on that game, being down multiple goals numerous times, but we didn’t give up and we got rewarded for it,” Stamkos said. “I don’t know to explain it. That was a weird game.”

Alex Nedeljkovic made 41 saves in his Red Wings debut after being acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 22. Moritz Seider had two assists in his NHL debut.

“Obviously when you’ve got a three-goal lead in the third period, it is really a gut punch to end up with a loss,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “I thought we were going to find a way to finish off that game.”

Coach Blashill did tell the Free Press’s Carlos Monarrez that he was happy for his fan base…

“The energy was great,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It was awesome, it was awesome to see the captains out. It was great, that was awesome. It was great to have fans in the building. All that stuff was great.”

And Blashill continued his split tack while speaking with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“You want to find a way to win the hockey game there after you have that kind of lead,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “All that stuff is disappointing. It was a gut punch there at the end. That part is certainly frustrating. You have to be able to finish that off. We were in position to win the hockey game. We take a penalty on 5-on-6 and give up a goal, we have to do better than that.”

Tyler Bertuzzi electrified an already frenzied crowd. In his first game since January, after missing most of last season because of back surgery, Bertuzzi scored four goals, leading the Wings’ attack. He became the ninth player in NHL history to score four or more goals in a season opener.

“That’s what we’re going for, is a win, but to start off with a point, we can work from there and keep getting better,” Bertuzzi said. “A little bit of a luck and good passing from Fabs (Robby Fabbri) and a couple of other guys (on Bertuzzi’s goals); it was just good to be back out there.”

Blashill also saw the Larkin match penalty a little differently than the Lightning did:

Larkin was assessed a match penalty (intent to injure) in the second period when he threw a punch at an unsuspecting Mathieu Joseph, after Joseph slammed Larkin into the boards. Larkin, who suffered a neck injury late last season and had a long rehabilitation through the summer and into the exhibition season, quickly got up after the hit and went after Joseph, which instigated a brief melee between the teams.

“Dylan was playing good, so you certainly wish he could stay in the game,” Blashill said. “A little bit at times in the game we lost some of our emotional control. Dylan is coming off his injury and gets hit from behind on the boards and he’s going to be upset.”

Blashill felt both Larkin and Joseph would get matching 10-minute penalties, but Larkin was assessed the match penalty as well, and “that’s the way they called it,” Blashill said.

Ultimately, both coach Blashill and Bertuzzi were disappointed with the outcome, but not so disappointed with the “process,” as they told DetroitRedWings.com’s Ethan Sears:

In the morning, Blashill had talked about how the Lightning can be more dangerous when they’re down by more than one goal. Afterwards, he sat at the podium having experienced it.

“The goal that hurts is the third goal. To me that’s the one that hurts,” he said. Then he raised an eyebrow. “Or the fourth goal, maybe?”

Once the Lightning went with an empty net, he said, the Red Wings needed to find a way to win.

“We played well enough to win the hockey game,” Blashill said. “We take a penalty (at) 5-on-6 and we gave up a 5-on-6 goal. So we gotta do better than that for sure.”

Also of note in the slightly gloomy vein, from Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen’s “Four Takeaways”

Rookies Were Not Liabilities: Both Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider were noteworthy performers in their NHL debuts. Seider had two assists, and Raymond had one. Seider had three hits.

“They did a good job on a number of things,” Blashill.said

You can see how Seider is going to help the Red Wings in a number of areas, such as on the power play, as tower of strength in front of the net and as a physical presence. He’s a big load to handle for opponents. After just a few preseason games, you can already see his game coming together..

Can’t Blame Nedeljkovic: Can you look solid when you give up seven goals? Maybe “solid” is an overstatement, but Alex Nedeljkovic didn’t play as poorly as you would think given the score.

He made some impressive saves. His defense betrayed him. The defensive coverage was leaky. The more goals the Red Wings scored, the more sloppy they became.

And, in a slightly more optimistic vein, from the Free Press’s Helene St. James:

Captain celebrates, leaves: Larkin finally got to celebrate his captaincy before fans, introduced before the game as a who’s who of former captains lined a red carpet. Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg, along with Alex Delvecchio, Red Berenson, Paul Woods, Nick Libbett, Dennis Hextall and Mickey Redmond were on the ice to recognize Larkin as the franchise’s 37th captain. Larkin was named at the start of last season, but the pandemic prevented any recognition before fans. Larkin earned the first goal of the season when he skated to the net as Robby Fabbri took a shot from the left flank. Larkin knocked in the puck.

The second period took a rough turn for Larkin. Mathieu Joseph hit him in the neck/shoulder area; Larkin’s season was cut short last April when he suffered a neck injury that required hospitalization. Larkin retaliated, taking a swipe at Joseph’s head and officials assessed Larkin a match penalty, ejecting him from the game. Joseph and Jan Rutta, who jumped Larkin, were each assessed roughing penalties.

The NHL will review the incident to determine if further disciplinary action is warranted, but it’s doubtful Larkin will be suspended. 

Rookies rock: It’s only been a little more than two years since Yzerman drafted defenseman Moritz Seider and a year since forward Lucas Raymond joined the organization. Both rookies had debuts to remember: Huge cheers when they were introduced in pre-game ceremonies, and an assist. Seider had a hand in Bertuzzi’s first and fourth goals, and Raymond in the third. Seider quarterbacked one power play unit, and Raymond was part of the other.

Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff believes that Larkin will be suspended, and I tend to agree, as reluctantly as I might, but Seider and Raymond looked like they belonged…

All in all, it was a remarkable night, but coach Cooper is wrong. The right team didn’t win.

Update: The Detroit News’s John Niyo put it this way:

Some of the other new additions showed what they can do, too, whether it was Pius Suter as the second-line center or Nick Leddy helping to push the pace from the blue line.

And there was plenty of pace in this one Thursday night, though all the moving parts weren’t always headed in the right direction. The fans probably had something to do with all the frenetic energy on the ice, but so be it. I think Red Wings fans will take another losing season if it looks more like this, even though the head coach might lose his mind.

“Every game kind of takes on a life of its own,” Blashill said. “That game, at times, got a little bit chaotic. It’s certainly great to score, but I don’t think we can expect to score six every night. So we’ve got to find ways to win games without giving up that many goals. We’ve got to buckle down and do a better job. I thought there were times we did and times where we obviously didn’t.”

Yet on a night where they did, and then didn’t, it was an exhilarating ride throughout. Maybe that’s not the point of all this, but for one night, it sure felt like it. 

Multimedia:

Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:20 highlight clip:

NHL.com posted a 5:06 highlight clip:

Post-game: You might imagine that Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was not of the same mind as the Red Wings’ fan base:

“𝙄𝙩’𝙨 𝙩𝙬𝙤 𝙥𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙪𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙡𝙚𝙩’𝙨 𝙢𝙤𝙫𝙚 𝙤𝙣”

Jon Cooper talks after the 7-6 OT @TBLightning come from behind win about the penalties against the Bolts, Mathieu Joseph, the OT action, and more. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/ZyuanOd9ZT— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) October 15, 2021

Victor Hedman also spoke with the media…

Victor Hedman talks about his game-tying assist, the @TBLightning come from behind win, the Bolts urgency and more. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/QYDrKHI6iK— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) October 15, 2021

As did Steven Stamkos:

“𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗹𝘆, 𝗯𝘂𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗯𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗼𝗳𝗳 𝘄𝗶𝗻𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀.” – 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗸𝗼𝘀

After the @TBLightning 7-6 OT win, Steven Stamkos talks about the Red Wings penalty on Larkin, the Bolts comeback win, pulling Vasy and more. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/LYAGJ7IbbP— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) October 15, 2021

Mickey Redmond weighed in on the Larkin-Joseph fracas:

The Free Press posted a 3:30 clip of Tyler Bertuzzi’s post-game remarks…

And a 6:49 clip of coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game remarks:

The Red Wings posted a 1:51 clip of Bertuzzi and Blashill’s remarks:

Update: WXYZ’s Brad Galli posted Blashill’s full 8:26 presser….

Photos: The Free Press posted a 20-image gallery;

The Detroit News posted a 29-image gallery;

NHL.com posted a 93-image gallery.

Statistics: Here are the Game Summary and Event Summary:

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.