Dylan Larkin returns, Red Wings blitz Vegas 5-2

Detroit News

Detroit — Dylan Larkin returned Sunday and everything was good again in the Red Wings’ world.

Larkin was in the lineup, the power play was dangerous, the Wings scored goals, and that four-game winless streak early last week was an ugly memory.

Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights was the Wings’ second consecutive victory, and was the best all-around game the Wings have played in more than a week.

But the best news of all for the Wings, and their fans, was the return of Larkin.

The Wings captain missed three consecutive games for what the team termed “personal reasons”.

Larkin called it a “family emergency” that required his attention.

“It was a tough week personally and I had to be at home for a family emergency,” Larkin said. “I had to be with my family. It’s a private matter and I hope everyone can really respect myself and my family’s privacy during this tough time.”

Larkin played 19 minutes, 11 seconds, had two shots on net, and was minus-1, centering the top line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond.

“It’s hard to put into words right now,” Larkin said, choking up, about returning to playing hockey.

Larkin played Oct. 30 in Toronto, the opening game of a four-game trip, but was not on the ice for Monday’s practice in Montreal (the Wings had a complete day off that Sunday).

The crowd at Little Caesars Arena roared when seeing Larkin on the ice, and gave a robust cheer when Larkin was announced in the starting lineup.

“Dylan is a big piece of who we are and the guys care about each other, care about him,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said about Larkin’s return. “It was good from their perspective to have him back, and it was for him, too.”

The Wings (6-5-2) were badly missing Larkin as the week went along. The team wasn’t scoring, there wasn’t a suitable replacement for Larkin on the top line, and the Wings were sorely missing the drive Larkin provides.

“Dylan is an engine for us, Tyler (Bertuzzi) is an engine,” Blashill said Saturday in Buffalo. “They’re two of our best players. (But) the degree to which you miss guys always depends on the degree to which guys that are in those spots, how good they play.”

The rest of the Wings lineup was real good Sunday against Vegas.

Raymond (power play), Robby Fabbri (power play), Pius Suter, Vladislav Namestnikov and Bertuzzi (empty net, team-leading ninth goal) provided Wings goals, while goaltender Thomas Greiss made 38 saves.

► BOX SCORE: Detroit 5, Vegas 2

“All 20 guys worked hard and it was a team effort,” Larkin said. “It was good to see guys get rewarded. It’s a great feeling. We should be proud We have a homestand with tough teams coming in and we’re going to need that effort.”

Greiss was the key Wing with several huge saves in the closing minutes with Vegas having an extra attacker and applying pressure.

With Vegas making an impressive final push, Greiss was the difference.

“It’s huge,” Blashill said of Greiss’ play late. “I just don’t know in this league if you can win on a consistent basis unless you get good goaltending. We need the same. We were able to build the lead and he was able to shut the door in the third.”

Nicolas Roy opened the scoring for Vegas (6-6), and Jonathan Marchessault added a third-period goal.

Raymond answered, tying the score with his sixth goal at 8 minutes 17 seconds.

Bertuzzi had the puck at the post and fed Raymond across the slot, Raymond one-timing a shot past goalie Laurent Brossoit.

The Wings quickly took the lead for keeps with another power-play goal, this one from Fabbri.

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Suter, who has four points in his last two games after totaling two points in his first 11 games, found Fabbri near the dot and Fabbri snapped a quick shot for his third goal.

“The game ebbed and flowed in different ways,” Blashill said. “Special teams was a big factor and we won in special teams and had great goaltending in the third. We got away from it and they pushed hard in the third. We have to be smarter in those situations.”

Suter made it 3-1 at 18:28 of the first period, beating Brossoit high.

The Suter, Filip Zadina and Fabbri line was arguably the Wings’ most effective and dangerous Sunday, giving the Wings more depth and balance throughout the lineup.

“They were great,” Blashill said. “We can’t be in a situation where one is always the line. Through 82 games no line is going to be great every night.”

Namestnikov’s extended the Wings’ lead to 4-1 at 10:39 of the third period, taking a shot from along the goal line that bounced off Namestnikov’s side and into the net for his fifth goal.


Twitter: @tkulfan

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