Dylan Larkin nets hat trick, Red Wings earn impressive 5-2 victory in Toronto

Detroit News

Toronto – The crowd out there who want the Red Wings to keep losing and gain better odds in the draft lottery probably hated this result.

Still, you want to think many Red Wings fans enjoyed Sunday’s 5-2 victory over Toronto, in a game that still means quite a bit with the Maple Leafs looking to secure home-ice advantage.

The Wings completely reversed Friday’s slow start with a three-goal first period Sunday, and never looked back against the Leafs.

And with Dylan Larkin score three goals, Marco Kasper making his NHL debut, Simon Edvinsson playing almost 23 minutes, and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic making 43 saves, there were plenty of reasons to like this victory against a quality opponent, never mind the draft lottery reprecussions.

“It was a poor performance from us last game, so it was a real good bounce back,” defenseman Moritz Seider said. “We showed character and even though we probably won’t make the playoffs this year, we show up and we’re not done yet. We want to give everything we have and leave everything out there.”

Larkin scored his second goal of the night, and 30th of the season, restoring a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 10 minutes and 16 seconds of the third period and capped the hat trick with an empty-net goal.

“It’s pretty special to do it here, my grandmother was here and she’s 88 now and she came to the rink,” Larkin said. “I got to see her yesterday and it’s always special when you get to do that. That was pretty cool.

“It’s a great feeling to come in here and beating a team like that. It’s always fun to come in here and winning and quieting the home fans.”

Olli Maatta, Jonatan Berggren and Larkin scored first-period goals as the Wings dominated the first period.

But throughout the game, it was Nedeljkovic, who earned his third victory since returning from a minor-league stint in Grand Rapids, who was pivotal.

“He’s been excellent and he was the difference,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “Seeing and stopping the puck, and just his ability to handle the puck. He really made our breakouts efficient and helped us get out of our zone.”

Nedeljkovic was sent to Grand Rapids when Ville Husso gained control of the starter’s job and Nedeljkovic wasn’t getting enough playing time and was ineffective.

But after a good stretch with the Griffins, Nedeljkovic has continued his steady play with the Wings during these final weeks of the season.

“It’s been a difficult year but he’s kept his head down and worked,” Larkin said. “He’s very loved in this locker room and we couldn’t be happier for him.”

Kasper, the Wings’ first-round draft pick last July, made his NHL debut and played 14 minutes 59 seconds and was credited with three hits and one shot on net. Kasper didn’t look out of place going up against the Leafs’ star forwards.

“It’s been really fun,” said Kasper of the day. “A real fun night getting the win. My teammates helped me a lot out there and made it easy to fit into the team. There was some nervousness but I was just trying to go out there and get the first shift done and look foward to the next one and keep going.”

Lalonde showed trust and confidence in Kasper, mainly because of the 18-year-old’s efficiency on the ice.

“He’s a very responsible, smart hockey player,” Lalonde said. “He’s a good two-way guy, and that’s what gets everyone excited about him and he showed that. He never got himself into trouble and he was around the net with some chances.

“It was a real good debut.”

Edvinsson played 22:25 (only Seider played more, 22:49) and was a big part of holding Toronto’s explosive offense in check.

“I loved the fact we had him out there against the top lines at times,” Lalonde said. “We’re in a unique situation where we want to give these guys opportunity and different ways for growth. It’s great for his development.”

Wings fans had to love a scrum late in the second period in which Kasper, Edvinsson, Seider and Lucas Raymond were squarely in a dust-up with the Leafs which Kasper instigated with some pushing behind the net.

It’s as if the Wings’ future was blooming in front of fans’ eyes right on the ice.

“It’s exciting for our hockey team,” Larkin said. “Simon has looked real comfortable and Marco, I’ve been real impressed with his demeanor and how respectful he is, and gone about his business. He’s going to be a special player.”

Calle Jarnkrok and John Tavares (power play) scored for the Leafs (45-21-10).

Raymond appeared to be a marked man most of the game after upending Toronto goaltender Matt Murray in the first period. Raymond lost a skate edge and toppled under Murray, who appeared to hit his head and neck area hard on the ice. Murray, who has a history of concussion issues, left the game in favor of Samsonov after briefly attempting to clear his head.

The Leafs had no update on Murray after the game.

With the victory, the Wings (34-33-9) tied St. Louis and Washington with 77 points but the Wings moved up to 22nd overall with a better win-percentage than those teams. The Wings are three points behind Ottawa (80) for 21st place, which would knock them out of any chance for the first pick overall (extremely small as it is).

But Wings players and coaches aren’t concentrating on where they sit in the draft lottery. They’re intent on finishing these final two weeks strong.

“We’ve won three of the last four versus three playoff teams (Pittsburgh, Carolina, Toronto), and two of the top teams in the league (Toronto, Carolina) and actual Cup contenders,” Lalonde said. “We’ve asked the guys to stay on it and play the right way and continue to build our team game and our habits and we’ve done that.”

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ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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