Dylan Larkin dominates with hat trick in Detroit Red Wings’ 5-2 win over New Jersey

Detroit Free Press

A milestone performance on a milestone night offered a balm against the nearly hourly intrusion of pandemic protocol updates.

Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin celebrated his first career hat trick Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, one of five games left on the NHL slate after five were postponed because of COVID-19. Coach Jeff Blashill was among the Wings who missed the game after testing positive, along with six players and an assistant coach.

Larkin’s four-point performance led to a 5-2 victory, in what marked the first time since its opening in October 2017 that LCA hosted a Wings and Pistons game on the same day. (The Pistons lost their matinee.) Tyler Bertuzzi added two goals to improve the Wings to 15-13-3.

“That was a huge win for our hockey team,” Larkin said. “It’s been difficult. You just have to find a way to show up and play. It feels pretty good in our room at a pretty tough time.

“We did wonder today if the league is going to step in, but we had to go and there were two points on the line.”

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Larkin scored at 15:39 of the first period after a slow start by the Wings, but the Devils tied it with 48.8 seconds to play before intermission. Michael McLeod, more of a checker than a scorer, picked up his second goal of the season when his shot knuckle-balled over Thomas Greiss’ right shoulder.

Larkin scored in the second period to make it 2-1. Moritz Seider made a highlight play on Bertuzzi’s first goal, carrying the puck into the Devils’ zone and slipping it between the legs of a defender. Bertuzzi turned that pass into his 11th goal of the season. Larkin netted his 15th goal of the season at 15:47 of the second period when he used his speed to generate a breakaway, drove to the net and scored on a forehand.

A shorthanded goal by Dawson Mercer late in the second period kept the score within two until Bertuzzi scored with six minutes to go in the third, firing a shot that went bar down and secured the Wings would improve to 11-3-2 at home.

Summons and calls

Ben Simon was summoned from Grand Rapids to serve as acting head coach after Blashill was among the growing numbers of Wings who were placed in protocol, where he joined assistant coach Alex Tanguay, No. 1 goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, and forwards Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri, Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith and Carter Rowney. Calvin Pickard was called up to serve as backup goaltender, and Riley Barber joined fellow Griffins forwards Kyle Criscuolo and Taro Hirose in the lineup. Simon was joined by his assistant, Todd Krygier, along with Wings assistant Doug Houda behind the bench.

Bounces and horns

Filip Hronek fired the puck from the top of the circle in his own zone and sent it deep into the offensive zone. Akira Schmid, making just his second NHL start and third appearance, went to play the puck and got caught — the puck bounced off the end boards and back into the middle of the ice, where all Larkin had to do was swipe it into the open net to set off the goal horn. That extended his scoring streak to three consecutive games. Larkin doubled up midway through the second period when he caught a perfectly timed pass from Vladislav Namestnikov in the slot and fired the puck into the net.

Holds and checks

The Wings went on a power play at 5:23 of the first period when Vladislav Namestnikov’s drive to the net prompted Kevin Bahl to take a holding penalty. During play in front of New Jersey’s net, Dougie Hamilton shoved Tyler Bertuzzi from behind, leading to a cross-checking call that put the Wings up two skaters for 49 seconds. The group that started the man advantage — Bertuzzi, Larkin, Seider, Lucas Raymond and Hronek — had enough time to catch their breath and stay on for the two-man advantage. Hronek hit the crossbar and missed the net on another shot, and Raymond had a shot blocked, leaving the Wings without a shot on net during the overlapping power plays.

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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