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Blashill's Red Wings shut out Babcock's Maple Leafs

by Paul Harris

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0 at Joe Louis Arena on Friday, with Jeff Blashill winning his NHL debut against former Detroit coach Mike Babcock.

"For me personally, it wasn't as much buildup as getting the first game of the season getting going a little bit," Blashill said. "It's one of 82; it's extremely important because there's two points on the line."

Justin Abdelkader scored his second NHL hat trick, and Jimmy Howard made 22 saves for his 21st shutout in Detroit's season opener.

"Obviously getting the hat trick was special for me, but overall we played a great game." Abdelkader said. "We didn't give them a whole lot. We came out at the start right away, which was good with the energy, and we fed off the crowd."

Nineteen-year-old Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin had a goal and an assist in his NHL debut, and captain Henrik Zetterberg had three assists on his 35th birthday.

Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier made six saves before being replaced by James Reimer after allowing Larkin's goal 20 seconds into the second period. Reimer made 12 saves.

"We got down two and we give up a goal on the first shift of the second period. Obviously, that really sank us," said Babcock, who coached the Red Wings for the previous 10 seasons.

Abdelkader gave Detroit a 2-0 first-period lead. He scored a power-play goal 1:15 into the game, 11 seconds after Toronto left wing Joffrey Lupul went off for hooking. Abdelkader put in the rebound of a shot by Johan Franzen.

Abdelkader's second goal came at 8:20. He beat Bernier with a turnaround forehand from the slot after taking a pass from Larkin.

Playing 4-on-4, Larkin made it 3-0 scoring off the rush on a wrist shot from the bottom of the left circle.

"It's an incredible feeling just to see it go in and see the Joe go pretty crazy," Larkin said. "Ever since the introduction there, I was kind of feeling the nerves, and to put that one home, I started to feel comfortable and I thought my play started to pick up."

Abdelkader completed his hat trick 3:54 into the period. He beat Reimer with a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle off the rush.

Howard made two outstanding saves in the first period, stopping Nazem Kadri, who broke in alone after a toe-drag move on defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, less than two minutes into the game, and center Shawn Matthias, who was left alone in front, with a little more than five minutes to go.

Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey knocked a rolling puck off the goal line and out of the crease late in the first period.

Larkin, from the Detroit suburb of Waterford, Mich., is the first teenager to play for the Red Wings since Jiri Hudler (19) in 2003-04. The last teenager to see significant playing time for Detroit was Jiri Fischer, who played 52 games in 1999-00 as a 19-year-old.

Blashill was born in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., and grew up in Sault Ste. Marie.

"I said earlier today when the game started it's pretty neat to have an opportunity to be the head coach of the team you grew up cheering for, so I took a moment to certainly enjoy that, but other than that it's been preparation as usual and I'm glad we got two points," he said.

Babcock signed an eight-year contract with Toronto on May 20. The Maple Leafs lost at the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Wednesday.

"We've had chances in both games. We've just got to bury 'em," Toronto forward Brad Boyes said.

There was a video tribute to Babcock on the scoreboard about halfway through the first period.

"It was nice of them to do. I wish they wouldn't have to do that," Babcock said. "I don't coach their team anymore. I'm glad this is all over with."

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