The Detroit Red Wings rolled out red carpets inside and outside as they celebrated their beautiful new home.
Players entered Little Caesars Arena with a red-carpet walk, and former defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom came out for the ceremonial puck drop as the Wings began their 2017-18 season Thursday with an encouraging 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
It helped the mood when youngsters Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin scored power play goals 23 seconds apart in the second period, though the Wild took care of that within a span of 48 seconds in the third period.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg, who turns 37 on Monday, came to the rescue and restored the lead, and then Martin Frk celebrated his 24th birthday with a goal to double up the lead. Frk also had an assist, Mantha had two of them, and Mike Green three of them.
Jimmy Howard looked in top form as he earned the 200th NHL victory of his career after facing 39 shots.
The game stood at 2-2 within three minutes of the second period, after Joel Eriksson Ek scored from in front of the net and then Chris Stewart walked right by Green and slid the puck past Howard. On a night where the Wings’ scoring came from early 20-somethings, Zetterberg showed he’s still got it, too, popping a loose puck from the slot at 7:07. Frk followed up at 10:39.
It was a satisfying finish after a dicey and dragging start.
The Wings took a penalty 47 seconds after the first puck drop; hardly a good look to get nabbed for too many men on the ice. Next came several minutes worth of reviewing after a scramble in front of Howard saw the puck go in. Officials ruled no goal because of goalie interference; why Minnesota thought it wise to challenge a play that had just been reviewed baffles, but so the Wild did, and so they lost.
The Wings’ first power play disappointed — it was just two minutes of passing the puck around, or losing it, and this after making it such a focus during exhibition season.
The period dragged through another challenge at 12:55 after Ryan Suter appeared to score on a deflected shot, but the Wings balked as Mikael Granlund had elbowed Howard in the net as the puck crossed the goal line. Officials ruled in the Wings’ favor.
The second period saw the Wings face 1:38 down two skaters. Howard came up big with a save on Nino Niederreiter and units of Danny DeKeyser, Xavier Ouellet with Luke Glendening, and Jonathan Ericsson, Nick Jensen and Frans Nielsen helped with a big kill. The Wings weren’t able to translate what should have been a momentum-turning shift into any zone time as they struggled to break out.
It wasn’t until about seven minutes in that Justin Abdelkader gave Devan Dubnyk his first work of the period, with a tip-in attempt.
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