By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – It was a day filled with anticipation and excitement.
That energy carried right over into the building for the Wings’ first-ever season opener at their new home – and the team’s first win.
The Red Wings opened their season in style with a red carpet gala beforehand in the Chevrolet Plaza outside Little Caesars Arena. Fans came out to greet their team as it arrived at the arena. Even NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand to take it all in.
On the ice, the home team didn’t disappoint.
Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Martin Frk scored for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard turned aside 37 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Frk, who also scored in the first preseason game ever held inside Little Caesars Arena, said he’s going to enjoy it – but only for the night.
“This is definitely special for me,” Frk said. “I was very excited for this game and then I got the goal, too, so it’s definitely special and really enjoying it.
“I will enjoy it, with my girlfriend and with my dog at home. Maybe have a beer or something, you know, have a little drink. Tomorrow is a new day, and we’ve got to go work again.”
The young line of Mantha, Larkin and Frk combined for three goals and six points.
“With those important minutes comes responsibility and I actually thought they all – maybe started off a little slow, but then as the game went along, I thought they played good,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said.
And on each occasion, video review denied the goal from standing.
It seemed the bounces were on Detroit’s side Thursday night. But the Wings proved you also have to earn your breaks.
After successfully killing a lengthy 5-on-3 in the middle frame, the Wings received one of their own and converted on both minor penalties to take a two-goal advantage into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
And 1:23 later, Larkin potted his first of the season to give Detroit an insurance marker.
“Every step of confidence, every little ounce of confidence you get helps you as a hockey team whether it’s on the power play, 5-on-5, so it’s a big thing,” Blashill said of the Wings’ success on the power play.
Two minutes into the third period, Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson-Ek found the back of the net off a quick pass from Chris Stewart behind the net.
Stewart then added one of his own just shortly after to even things up at two.
The Red Wings’ captain responded with 12:53 remaining in the game, as he capitalized on a turnover in the slot to beat Dubnyk.
Frk added one to put the Wings up by two again for the first of his NHL career, a blast that squeaked through Dubnyk to seal the win for Detroit.
“The atmosphere was awesome,” Zetterberg said. “Obviously, to see the way the arena is built, it gets loud in here. It was fun to play.”