DETROIT - Sometimes it's not how you start that matters, it's how you finish.
Perhaps it was nerves or the sheer excitement of playing their first regular season game ever at Little Caesars Arena, but the Red Wings began slowly, found their offensive rhythm by netting two power play goals, withstood a Wild comeback and took control of the game midway through the third period to defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Thursday.
Detroit's power play and penalty killing units were the difference in the contest, especially in the second period when the Wings killed off a 5-on-3 for 1:38, which featured several clutch saves by goalie Jimmy Howard.
When the Wings had their own two-man advantage later in the second, Anthony Mantha scored, followed by a Dylan Larkin goal 23 seconds later.
The Wings were 2-of-5 on the power play while the Wild were 0-4.
Mike Green paced Detroit's attack, assisting on all four Detroit goals and Mantha was the number one star of the game with a goal and two assists.
1. Young kids: In today's NHL with a hard salary cap, teams usually tie up their best players with lucrative long-term deals. For the most part, the days of blockbuster trades and major free agent acquisitions are few and far between. That's why Wings coach Jeff Blashill has been saying for over two years the young players need to get better every year if the team is going to improve. On Thursday the line of youngsters Martin Frk, Larkin and Mantha made an impact on the game. The players accounted for six total points and provided energy and speed. Blashill is counting on his youngster line to be major contributors if Detroit is to become a playoff team.
Quotable: 'It was great for those three to score. We've talked about it lots, they're going to be important pieces for this team. With those important minutes comes responsibility and I actually thought they all maybe started off a little slow but as the game went along I thought they played good and I thought the play in the third, when Frk scored, it was a great, great play on the wall coming out of our zone by him. I thought he really settled down as the game went along. I thought early on he was probably nervous, a little bit, but I thought they settled down, so that's great." - Blashill
2. Power play: When Blashill made the decision to essentially keep the Red Wings together as one team during training camp, instead of dividing them among the three preseason teams, he cited the main reason was being able to work on the power play. On Thursday, his reasoning paid off as the Wings scored two power plays goals 23 seconds apart in the second period, lifting the Wings to a 2-0 lead. Mantha scored the first regular season goal at Little Caesars Arena at 14:40 of the second period with the Wings having a two-man advantage. Larkin scored the second goal at Little Caesars at 15:03, with the Wings being up a man. It was a good beginning for a team which had trouble scoring on the power play much of last season.
Quotable: "That was definitely special. That's what we talked about the whole time, we have to be better on the power play. Put the pucks on the net and we did that tonight. We got two in like 30 seconds. It definitely gives the guys who are going on the power play big confidence. It helps the team to win the game." - Frk
3. Disallowed goals: The game could have turned in the Wild's direction in the first period. At 2:41, there was a lot of traffic at the net and the puck eventually crossed the goal line. After a lengthy review, the officials ruled that the puck went in but it was no goal due to goaltender interference. The Wild challenged the call and the second review also resulted in no goal. Then at 12:55, defenseman Ryan Suter's shot got past Howard for what appeared to be the first goal of the game. But the Wings challenged for goaltender interference and the review showed that Mikael Granlund did interfere with Howard and the goal was waved off. So what could have been a 2-0 deficit instead turned into a scoreless first period.
Quotable: "It made for a long, long first period. I want to check and see if my kids stayed. It seemed like it took a long time. I knew what was going to happen on the first one. I didn't know if the puck was in or not, but I know the ref came to me right away said, 'I've got goalie interference if they do think it's in. And that was the call he made, and then they made the decision to challenge it. On ours, I thought it was pretty clear cut that it was goalie interference. The elbow hit the head, so it was pretty clear cut. Thankfully it went our way." - Blashill