NEWARK, N.J. – The last time the Red Wings and New Jersey Devils faced – prior to the Christmas holiday break – Dylan Larkin received plenty of unwanted attention.
The Devils’ John Moore, Damon Severson and Lee Stempniak managed to get away with a few indiscretions at Larkin’s expense, which eventually cost the rookie a game played when he sat out with an upper-body injury when the Wings traveled to Nashville on Dec. 26.
Following the Red Wings’ 4-3 loss to New Jersey, coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t pleased with the treatment of his young star
“I think we’re going to have to continue to do a good job of defending him,” Blashill said. “And I think referees throughout the league have to know that young stars in the league, when they get targeted, they’ve got to make sure they do a good job of calling penalties, even if they’re close, because we don’t want our young stars in the league getting targeted and we don’t want lots of fighting anymore, so we better make sure we look after them a little bit that way.”
Though the Devils weren’t penalized for targeting Larkin, several others have been this season have been, including Buffalo’s Cody Franson, who was called for roughing on Saturday. Calgary’s Sean Monahan and Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos also received minors for roughing Larkin this season, while Nashville defenseman Seth Jones and Ottawa center Zack Smith were accessed slashing minors, and Calgary center Joe Colborne for cross-checking.
Blashill said Larkin must continue to play through a lot of the physical stuff.
“It’s just part of being a young player, it’s part of being a good player in this league,” Blashill said. “It’s the reality of it. I think he understands that. I’m sure there’s moments where he’ll be frustrated. But there’s lots of moments where he’s fought through that frustration and been real successful. He’ll have to win that battle on a nightly basis.”
Petr Mrazek will make his eighth straight appearance tonight, which includes six starts.
The Czech goalie replaced Jimmy Howard on Dec. 22 when the Devils touched the veteran for three goals on the first six shots of the game. It was the first time this season that a Wings’ goaltender has been lifted from a game for poor performance.
Howard was also lifted on Dec. 29 at Winnipeg.
Blashill has said all along that the Wings’ have an ideal goaltender situation with very little separation between Mrazek and Howard this season.
But when a reporter asked Blashill before Monday’s game about Howard’s possible next start, the coach was guarded.
“We’re going to play tonight’s game and we felt like this was the right move for tonight and then we’ll re-evaluate after the game,” Blashill said. “I never want to get too far ahead of myself. Certainly we have thoughts in place, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. We’ll keep kind of going day by day. It’s a day-by-day business.”
The Devils defeated the Red Wings twice last month, 3-2 in overtime at Prudential Center (Dec. 11) and 4-3 at Joe Louis Arena 11 days later. The Devils haven't won three straight against the Red Wings since their four-game sweep in the 1995 Stanley Cup finals.
The way the period started out it appeared the Devils would continue to target Larkin, especially after the whistle. A case in point was forward Bobby Farnham, who made use Larkin knew he wasn’t welcome around the Devils’ crease following an early stoppage.
But Larkin countered the only way he knows how.
The rookie took a perfect stretch pass from blue line to blue line, and set in alone on goalie Cory Schneider. After receiving Brad Richards’ pass, Larkin got Schneider to bite on the forehand, pulling the goalie out of position and unable to recover to make a save on Larkin’s backhand.
The first-period goal was No. 14 for Larkin, who regained the league’s rookie goal-scoring lead. He also pulled into a tie with Los Angeles Kings’ Tyler Toffoli atop of the league’s plus-minus rating at plus-22.
Larkin is No. 25 all-time on the franchise’s rookie scoring list with 27 points in 39 games. He’s tied for 18th all-time in goals with Carl Liscombe (1937-38), Len Lunde (1958-59) and Henry Boucha (1972-73).
DETROIT 1, NEW JERSEY 0
SCORING: 1. DET, Larkin (Richards, Sheahan) 9:20.
SHOTS: Detroit 8, New Jersey 12.
Early in the period, Schneider managed to keep it a one-goal deficit for the Devils when he made a fine sliding stop on Joakim Andersson with 13:55 left. The play was set up by Luke Glendening, who moved the puck to the bottom of the right circle from the near corner. Glendening spotted Andersson, who crashed the net while fighting off a check by Jon Merrill, but the shot appeared to strike the goalie in the chest.
The Devils received the game’s first power play when Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar was called for goaltender interference at 9:06. But the Wings’ penalty killers were relentless, not allowing a shot to reach Mrazek.
In fact, the Wings blocked seven Devils’ shots in the period, including two each by defensemen Alexey Marchenko and Jonathan Ericsson. Three others – Larkin, Glendening and Mike Green – had one block each.
Mrazek face just five shots in the period.
DETROIT 1, NEW JERSEY 0
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Tatar (goaltender interference) 9:06.
SHOTS: Detroit 6 (15), New Jersey 5 (17).
For the second straight period, the Wings’ defense was stellar, holding the Devils to enough shots that could be counted on one hand.
The Devils, who were held to five shots in the second period, only managed five in the final 20 minutes as the Red Wings posted a 1-0 win at the Prudential Center.
However, midway through the period, Kyle Palmieri had perhaps the Devils best chance to tie the score. He skated around Niklas Kronwall, but as the Devils’ forward cut right to left on front of Mrazek he lost control of the puck as it skipped into the corner.
It’s Mrazek’s seventh career shutout, his second this season. He made 38 saves in blanking the Washington Capitals, 1-0, at Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 10.
The Red Wings have provided nail-biting finishes all season, playing 25 of their first 40 games to one-goal decisions this season (62.5 percent). Monday’s win is Detroit’s league-leading 15 one-goal victory of the season.
The Wings are heading home tonight. They will begin a four-game trip to the West Coast later this week with games in San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Arizona.
DETROIT 1, NEW JERSEY 0
PENALTIES: 1. NJD, Tlusty (boarding) 10:44; 2. DET, Abdelkader (kneeing) 13:03.
SHOTS: Detroit 6 (21), New Jersey 5 (22).