Detroit Red Wings top line dominates in victorious home opener

Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports
Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports /

On Saturday night, the Detroit Red Wings hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning in their 2023-24 home opener. Following the coaching staff and player introductions, hockey would be played.

After a tough loss in New Jersey to open the season, the Detroit Red Wings would look to bounce back at home in front of a ruckus crowd. The Red Wings elected to roll with 11 forwards and seven defenders for this one, with Robby Fabbri sidelined with a minor injury. I know, death, taxes, and Robby Fabbri suffering an injury.

The opening allowed veteran defenseman Olli Maatta an opportunity to make his season debut. Before the contest, Detroit recalled veteran center Zach Aston-Reese from Grand Rapids to view the game with Alex Lyon and Fabbri from the press box.

The Detroit Red Wings beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4 in home opener.

First Period

The Detroit Red Wings found themselves flat-footed early on, which isn’t out of the ordinary following a lengthy pre-game ceremony. Starting goaltender Ville Husso was able to weather the storm, allowing the Red Wings to settle down. Detroit would strike first, thanks to Daniel Sprong being Johnny on the spot. Tampa Bay netminder Jonas Johansson failed to locate a shot that trickled through him from Alex DeBrincat, and the determined Sprong cashed in the loose change.

The Lightning quickly rallied back with a pair of unanswered tallies. The first was thanks to an odd-man rush, and some tic-tac-toe passing that ended with a Steven Stamkos blast finding the twine. The insult to injury here was the fact that moments before the Stamkos goal, Detroit had a two-on-zero and failed to convert. The break was Joe Veleno with defenseman Jake Walman. Veleno slid a pass over to Walman, but Jake was unable to return the favor and took a shot that sailed wide over the right shoulder of Johansson.

The Lightning got the go-ahead goal from Brandon Hagel, who flew in on a breakaway and beat Husso on the glove side from the hash marks. Detroit would answer back, thanks to Alex DeBrincat and a lucky bounce. DeBrincat sent a shot from just inside the Tampa Bay blue line near the middle of the ice that hit a Tampa Bay stick and then bounced on the ice a few feet in front of Johansson, who had been down and went up over his shoulder. It was a bizarre bounce, but Detroit will take it. With the two teams gridlocked after the first period, Detroit held the edge in shots 14-10.

In non-goal news, Red Wings forward Lucas Raymond nearly brought down the house when he put Michael Eyssimont upside down on Detroit’s bench with a massive hit. Raymond put on some weight this summer, and it’s apparent he won’t be pushed around at least as easily as he had been in years past. Another player who stood out in that first frame was Michael Rasmussen. The 6-foot-6 forward was buzzing early on and nearly buried a glorious chance as he walked right down Broadway and sailed a shot high over the crossbar. Following the chance, all Rasmussen could do was look skyward in disbelief. He also chipped a puck off the boards (self-made give-and-go) to himself to get around a Tampa defender and turned that crafty play into another scoring chance.

Second Period

The Detroit Red Wings came out flying in the second period. A few minutes into the frame, Detroit captain Dylan Larkin got in on the forecheck, forcing an uncharacteristic turnover from star defenseman Victor Hedman. Raymond was the beneficiary, ripping a shot from the right-wing half-wall through the legs of Connor Sheary and past a helpless Johansson to make it 3-2 Detroit.

Midway through the frame, Stamkos reminded us that he is still, indeed, Stamkos. The Lightning captain was streaking in on the right side on a semi-odd-man rush and blasted a laser past Husso. The shot beat Husso up over the glove and just under the bar; it was a gorgeous shot, but one Husso will undoubtedly want back.

Detroit would quickly answer back. J.T. Compher redirected a Moritz Seider point shot past Johansson to give the Red Wings their third lead of the game. The second period would end with Detroit up 4-3 on the scoreboard and outshooting the Lightning 31-18.

Third Period

Like the second period, the Detroit Red Wings came out flying in the third. Larkin poked the puck past defenseman Mikhail Sergachev at center ice and created another odd-man rush for the Red Wings. Larkin made a gorgeous pass to DeBrincat, who one-timed it home for his second goal of the game.

After mayhem in Detroit’s zone following a whistle, which included Mikhail Sergachev running Moritz Seider from behind, the Red Wings found themselves a man down. Victor Hedman snapped a shot home, cutting into Detroit’s lead to make it 5-4 quickly into the power play. Detroit held on late with multiple players stuck on the ice under Tampa’s siege with the empty net. Ben Chiarot, Christian Fischer, and Joe Veleno were all defending for over two minutes. Ville Husso stood tall, and eventually, Moritz Seider hit the empty net at the horn to seal Detroit’s first victory of the season.

Final Thoughts

That first line of Larkin, DeBrincat, and Raymond played a tremendous game. That line popped every time they were out on the ice. Heading into the regular season, many of us expected DeBrincat and Larkin would play together, but who would be playing on the opposite wing had been a bit of a mystery. Head coach Derek Lalonde explored with David Perron in the first game of the season; he tried Michael Rasmussen and Raymond various times last month. It’s going to be Raymond until further notice. The trio totaled six points in the opener and was a combined plus-9.

Daniel Sprong looks like a significant asset in Detroit’s middle-six. Sprong has scored in back-to-back games to open the season, plus he looks dangerous with the puck on his stick. He’s creative and protects the puck well.

Detroit was able to create offensive zone pressure thanks to a tenacious forecheck. Larkin and Raymond flashed in this area.

Detroit’s backend didn’t perform well in this contest, as they rotated seven defenders. The Red Wings gave up too many odd-man rushes, partly due to the fact the pairings were constantly changing, but it’s also only the second game of the season, so there is no real need to overreact. Husso played ‘ok,’ making 22 saves on 26 shots.

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Next up for the Red Wings is a date in Columbus on Monday at 7 p.m. EST.