Detroit — Dylan Larkin made his return to the Red Wings lineup Saturday a successful one.
Playing in his first game since April 20, when he took a crosscheck to the neck area, Larkin had two power-play goals and an assist leading the Wings to a 5-1 exhibition victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Larkin referenced Will Ferrell’s classic character Ricky Bobby, in “Talledega Nights,” as to how Larkin’s return went.
“The first period was rough, I was feeling like I was Ricky Bobby in his first race back after his car crash,” Larkin said. “It felt like everything was going fast and I wasn’t.
“I felt a little comfortable (as the game progressed) and it was nice to get on the good side of good plays, and the power play was clicking. I felt better.”
Larkin took an outlet pass from Nick Leddy (three assists) with the Wings on the power play, drove to the net, and slipped a shot past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins in the first period.
Larkin whistled a shot past Merzlikins late in the third period, moments after taking a crosscheck to the back, converting a nice seam pass from Lucas Raymond.
Larkin also set up Joe Veleno with a third-period power-play goal.
In all, Larkin played 17 minutes 41 seconds, had a team-high five shots on net, and looked close to regular-season form in his preseason debut.
Playing with Raymond and Veleno also gave Larkin an indication of the potential of the two young forwards.
“There’s a lot of skill, skill is one thing all these young kid have coming in,” Larkin said. “It’s exciting to see and exciting to get to play with them out there.”
Coach Jeff Blashill also felt Larkin progressed nicely as the game went along, especially absorbing contact.
“He got more comfortable, and that’s the reason we play exhibition games, especially for a guy like him, it’s his first action coming off the injury,” Blashill said. “As the game went along he got a little more comfortable and he tried to initiate contact early, and as the game went along he was willing to take more contact and ultimately that’s the way he’s going to have to play to be successful. It was good to get him in.”
Said Larkin: “Our first couple of shifts, I had six or seven turnovers and I just figured I might as well do something. I was waiting to get hit and I expected to get hit, and finally I decided I’m going to go hit someone, get a little frustration out.”
Larkin played on a line with Filip Zadina and Raymond, with Raymond earning two assists, on the third-period power-play goals by Veleno and Larkin.
This was the second consecutive game Raymond was put on a scoring line — Raymond played Thursday with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri — as the Wings gauge how ready for the NHL Raymond is.
“It’s exhibition season and teams are bringing in different types of lineups,” Blashill said. “(But) Lucas has done a good job with the challenges he’s faced and the challenges will get greater as the exhibition season goes along. He has to continue to make a big impact as the lineups get better.
“We’ll see how he does but he’s done a good job so far.”
Taro Hirose and Chase Pearson added goals for the Wings (3-0). The Wings split the goaltending — Thomas Greiss stopped all eight shots he faced, while Calvin Pickard stopped 11 of 12.
Carson Meyer scored for Columbus, cutting the Wings lead to 3-1 at 1:55 of the third period.
Power play progress
Saturday’s three power-play goals were a sign of assistant coach Alex Tanguay’s impact with the unit, a hopeful sign for a power play that has struggled mightily in recent seasons.
“He encourages us to, when we get into high pressure moments, to go with your instincts and make plays,” Larkin said. “If you’re going to do that, you better execute it by making hockey plays.
“It didn’t get off great on the power play, there were some turnovers and we fumbled the puck, but we stuck with it and kept positive and he kept us moving with different looks.”
Leddy, who is expected to quarterback one of the power-play units, likes what Tanguay has brought, specifically in terms of communication.
“He’s put a lot on us, to communicate with each other, try and find plays, or if we get a power play early in a game, see the penalty kills, tendencies and stuff, to talk about it,” Leddy said. “Kind of know what we were going to do before we go out there.”
Red Wings at Penguins
► Faceoff: Noon Sunday, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh
► TV/radio: Streamed on detroitredwings.com/no radio
► Outlook: The Wings play their third game in four nights during this stretch of the preseason. … The Penguins will be without C Sidney Crosby (wrist) and C Evgeni Malkin (knee).