The Red Wings began the second half of the season about as well as they could have hoped.
With every line contributing goals, the defense buckling down in the third period and closing out an opponent impressively, and the specialty teams looking good, the Wings began the sprint to the end of the season with a convincing 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The two teams meet again Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.
“We had pretty good chances right from the start,” defenseman Moritz Seider said. “Everyone came to compete tonight. We had the lead going into the third and you don’t want to give them anything and we did a real good job.”
The Wings limited Philadelphia to 24 shots, only five in the third period.
“I liked the fact we didn’t give them much in the third,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We’ve been in that position lots and not always played the type of hockey that you need to play. We did a pretty good job of keeping pressure on them. That was a good step for us that way.”
The Guelph line of Pius Suter, Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi continued their hot stretch with five points. Suter and Fabbri both scored a goal and assisted on one, and Bertuzzi had one assist.
Dylan Larkin (power play, his 24th goal), Lucas Raymond (12th), Givani Smith (fourth) and Vladislav Namestnikov (empty net, his 13th goal) added goals — all four lines contributed to the scoring sheet — as the Wings moved back to .500 (21-21-6).
“We’re going to need depth of scoring as we go through the rest of the season,” Blashill said. “We tried to play all four lines and they all did a good job in different times of the game.”
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 20 shots.
Smith’s goal, at 8 minutes, 46 seconds of the third period, gave the Wings the two-goal cushion (5-3). Namestnikov capped the scoring with an empty-net goal.
Joe Veleno, just recalled to the Wings after a productive two-game stint in Grand Rapids during the break, found Smith racing down wing and Smith sniped a shot past goaltender Carter Hart.
“Everyone can score. We have a real good lineup,” Seider said. “Guys are chipping in.”
Isaac Ratcliffe (first NHL goal), Travis Sanheim, Scott Laughton had the Flyers’ (15-23-8) goals.
The victory was a rare one for the Wings in Philadelphia. The Wings hadn’t won in regulation time in their last 15 games in Philadelphia, since January 1997 (not counting the Wings’ two victories in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals). The Wings won a game in a shootout several years ago.
Neither team looked sharp defensively early.
Philadelphia answered a Wings’ goal three times with goals within 24 seconds.
“Sloppy early a little bit, and coming off break that happens,” Blashill said. “Overall, as the game went along, we got better which was a good sign.”
Larkin opened the scoring with a shot off a Flyers’ skate leg and past Hart at 2:43. But Ratcliffe scored his first NHL goal 20 seconds later, when Zach MacEwen’s shot banked off Ratcliffe past Nedeljkovic.
The Wings regained the lead on Raymond’s goal. Raymond went to the net and put back his own rebound at 6:02, giving the Wings a 2-1 lead.
But again the Flyers responded, Claude Giroux setting up Ranheim alone near the dot for Ranheim’s third goal, just 23 seconds after Raymond’s goal.
The Suter line took over the second period.
Suter scored his 11th goal, capping a dominant shift by the Guelph line, at 6:12, Bertuzzi finding Suter alone in the slot.
Fabbri extended the lead to 4-2 with his 13th goal, at 11:00, snapping a shot off Hart’s blocker and shoulder and into the net.
“All three of them are unbelievable players, great skill sets and they can all finish,” Seider said. “We really need secondary scoring and they’re stepping up. It’s really fun to see how much they are creating there.”
The Flyers answered again, 21 seconds later, with Laughton scoring his eighth goal, after a scramble in front of Nedeljkovic.
But the Wings’ penalty kill came up with a key stop, and the Wings played textbook defense in the final 20 minutes, with Seider leading the way in a dominant 23 minutes of ice time.
“There were times he was dominant and he looked like a young guy with lots of confidence out there,” Blashill said. “He really controlled the game at times. He’s certainly a guy who can control games like that and he did that to a large degree for lots of the night.”