| The Detroit News
Detroit — There were a few more fans inside Little Caesars Arena Tuesday and they got something to cheer about, as the sports world crawls back to normalcy.
Cheer for most of the night, but not at the very end.
Tampa Bay rallied in the period, then Blake Coleman scored at 2 minutes 17 seconds of overtime, giving the defending Stanley Cup champions a 4-3 victory over the Red Wings.
“They’re obviously a team that can make you pay when you make any kind of mistake at all,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’m disappointed to lose in overtime.”
Approximately 750 fans were at LCA, after the state last week loosened COVID-19 restrictions.
And you could hear the difference, along with players and coaches, who were appreciative of actual people in the seats and not carboard cutouts.
“Absolutely,” said Dylan Larkin, of the fans’ impact. “It was great to see them and great to see them socially distanced and spread out. Saw a lot of kids at the game, It was exciting and moving in the right direction. It was great to have them back.
“They’re a huge part of the game. Home ice advantage, and it makes it feel a whole lot special. It was (sign) of moving in the right direction for the people who come to see live sports.”
Said Blashill: “It’s great to take a step closer to having more people in the building. If we can continue to take gradual steps to get more people in the building, it’s a better game. Part of what makes sports special is the interaction with fans and momentum that fans give.
“We’ve had to play in empty arenas and if anybody says it’s the same game they’re lying. It’s not the same when fans aren’t in the building.”
Larkin scored in his first game back after missing four with an upper body injury, breaking a 2-2 tie at the 9:04 mark of the second period.
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Larkin ended a personal 12-game goal-scoring drought, snapping a shot off the rush at 9:04 of the second period.
“He controlled the puck as well as he had a lot of the season and he looked like he came back with renewed confidence and made a lot of plays,” Blashill said.
But Tampa’s Erik Cernak tied it 3-3 at 9:40 of the third period, skating alone in from the point and snapping a shot past goaltender Thomas Greiss, Cernak’s first goal of the season.
Adam Erne (power play) and Patrik Nemeth added Wings goals, and goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped 24 shots.
Tampa (18-4-2) has defeated the Wings in 19 of their last 20 regular season matchups.
Brayden Point (power play) and Tyler Johnson had first period Tampa goals, a period which was highlighted a bothersome horn attached to the scoring system at LCA that would go off every several minutes.
The horn disrupted the first Tampa power play, inadvertently stopping play, and appeared to bother players and fans before someone fixed the issue after the period ended.
“I don’t know what was going on there but it was (disrupting),” Larkin said. “You take a split second to think about it and then realize you have to keep playing (through). It was something I’ve never seen at a hockey game. It was pretty interesting.”
Blashill agreed that it was a unique experience.
“Crazy,” Blashill said. “I never saw anything like that in my life. The refs made the decision to play through the horn which was probably a good decision or otherwise we’d have to stop every 30 seconds. It was something I’ve never seen (before).”
The Wings (7-16-5) saw their winless streak reach four games.
Erne opened the scoring on the power play, his third goal, his first against his former Tampa teammates, the Wings’ fifth consecutive game with a power play goal.
Filip Zadina found Erne alone in front of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Erne converted a quick little move to put the Wings ahead 1-0.
But Tampa tied it 1-1 with Point scoring his eighth goal, a one-timing shot between the hashmarks at 12:29.
Just 35 seconds later, Tampa took a 2-1 lead as Johnson scored his fifth goal, redirecting a shot by Victor Hedman that was tipped once before reaching Johnson.
The Wings evened it with Nemeth’s second goal at 6:58 of the second period.
Nemeth, trailing on the play, blasted a setup pass from Sam Gagner, getting the Wings back in the game.
“Our second period was one of the best periods of hockey we’ve played in a while,” Larkin said. “We were playing with pace. We played on our toes. We were hard to play against and we played the right way. We created shots and pressure.”