Detroit Red Wings’ opener looks a lot like last season in 3-0 loss to Hurricanes

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
 
| Detroit Free Press

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There were sights unfamiliar — and too familiar — as the Detroit Red Wings played their first game in 310 days.

They started the 2021 season by hosting the Carolina Hurricanes — the same team that left the 2019-20 Wings on the mat March 10, two days before the NHL shut down the season because of the pandemic — on Thursday at Little Caesars Arena .

Credit new goalie Thomas Greiss for keeping the 2021 opener close, but his teammates were not nearly as effective as the hope they built up during a two-week training camp.

The result was a 3-0 loss that was only close because Greiss made 41 saves. The Wings did not acquit themselves well in any other aspect — but they have a rematch on hand Saturday at LCA.

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Sights and Sounds

Dylan Larkin was the last to be introduced, in his first game since being asked by general manager Steve Yzerman to captain the team. The only people in the stands Thursday were family or friends of team personnel. It was a stark contrast to the last time the Wings used a season opener to introduce a captain, when Nicklas Lidstrom was introduced to a standing ovation in 2006, taking over the captaincy from Yzerman.

Karen Newman sang the national anthem from above the Zamboni entrance. The sounds of fans reacting to action was piped in, increasing in noise when the Wings had possession of the puck — and when a brief fight broke out between Sam Gagner and Dougie Hamilton in the second period. 

The coolest cheering section was in the small section behind the goal used by the Hurricanes in the first and third periods, where there were cardboard cutouts of the Little Caesars gladiator.

Too familiar

For all that was strange, the first period was too similar to last season for a team determined to prove they are improved. Nino Niederreiter scored 3:38 into the first period, converting on a pass from Sebastian Aho, who’d picked off Larkin’s pass. Greiss, making his first start since being signed as a free agent in October, did what he could to keep the Hurricanes at bay, making 12 saves in the opening period. The Canes dominated the Wings on faceoffs, winning 71%. The Wings weren’t able to build momentum after intermission, coming out and being outshot 7-1 the first seven minutes of the second period.

Not good enough

The Wings performed better the second half of the second period, getting more shots on former teammate Petr Mrazek in Carolina’s net. Anthony Mantha had a good chance on a power play, but Mrazek gloved the shot. Robby Fabbri’s man-advantage group with Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner, Filip Hronek and Jon Merrill had some jump, buzzing around the net. Faceoffs went a little better, with the Wings winning 37%. It wasn’t, though, the response expected after such a dud of a first period, and the response wasn’t there to start the third period, either. The Wings managed one shot on net the first 14 minutes, to 12 from the Canes. Ryan Dzingel scored during a power play with 2:35 to play and Andrei Svechnikov found an empty net with 1:05 to play for the final score.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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