The Detroit Red Wings were missing six players and two coaches in COVID-19 protocols. However, their big line remained intact and they were more than enough to overcome the New Jersey Devils.
Captain Dylan Larkin potted his first NHL hat-trick and with linemate Tyler Bertuzzi scoring twice, the Wings took care of the Devils 5-2 Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.
Five takeaways from Detroit’s 15th win of the season.
Dylan Is Dynamite
Larkin opened the scoring when he pounced on a puckhandling miscue by Devils goalie Akira Schmid. He gave the Red Wings the lead for good in the second period, completing his hat-trick on a third-period breakaway.
Larkin suggested that it was his first three-goal performance since his early days of youth hockey, recalling how his Nana Alice Larkin used to encourage him to score goals.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 19, 2021
“She would always give me $5 every goal,” Larkin recalled. “She’d always be like, ‘Will you score a hat-trick?’ and I’d be like, ‘Nana, it’s kind of hard.’ This one’s definitely for my Nana.”
Larkin has goals in three straight games, scoring five times over that span.
Bert Doubles Down
Bertuzzi had gone 11 games without a goal prior to tallying last game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
SEIDER WITH A GREAT PLAY TO TUZZI pic.twitter.com/GNSQilUWN4
— Red Wings Rant (@BODHockey) December 19, 2021
He liked it so much, Bertuzzi added a second marker in the third period to complete the Detroit scoring. It was his third multi-goal game of the season and the 12th of his career.
Coach Simon Says
Grand Rapids Griffins coach Ben Simon ran the bench during Saturday’s game. The coach of Detroit’s AHL farm club got the win in his first NHL game.
Assistant coach Doug Houda, the one Detroit bench coach who avoided COVID protocol, maintained his role running the defense. GR assistant coach Todd Krygier, a former NHL forward himself, ran the forwards.
“Those guys did a great job to come up under tough circumstances for them, and for the players that are hopping in,” Houda said. “The whole day’s an interesting day with all the COVIDs going on. We found a way, we battled through. When you get a win at the end of the day, we just move on.”
Blashill was in constant communication with the staff via Zoom.
“We got him set up on video,” Houda said. “We’d go over different situations . . . We tried to cover all the bases.
“He would meet us between periods. He’d talk about what he saw and then we’d talk about what we saw and then just go back out and address it (with the players).”
Plenty Of New Faces
The coaches weren’t the only newcomers in the Detroit lineup. The Red Wings were suiting four players who began the week in Grand Rapids and two who began the day in Grand Rapids.
Forwards Taro Hirose and Kyle Criscuolo were summoned earlier in the week when Rasmussen and Fabbri were entering COVID protocol. Forward Riley Barber and backup goalie Calvin Pickard were quickly recalled Saturday when goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and forwards Givani Smith and Carter Rowney were entering COVID protocol. A couple of hours prior to gametime, forward Filip Zadina was also placed into COVID protocol.
Defenseman Jordan Oesterle stepped up to forward to fill in for Zadina.
“I give credit to the guys that came from Grand Rapids,” Larkin siad. “Jordan Oesterle playing forward tonight. We needed him in a crunch and he did great.
“It felt pretty good in our room in a pretty tough time right now.”
It was Criscuolo who sent Larkin the pass for his breakaway hat-trick goal but it was also Criscuolo’s first NHL point, leading to a logistical question:
Who gets the milestone puck?
“That’s an easy one.” Larkin said. “I’m gonna pass that one to him. That’s a big deal for him.
“I couldn’t be happier for Crisco. He plays the right way. He won a lot of battles tonight and a lot of faceoffs.”
Devil Of A Time
The Devils and Red Wings were meeting on the ice for the first time since February 20, 2020, before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
Detroit’s victory ended a three-game losing streak against New Jersey. The previous win by the Red Wings over the Devils was a 4-0 shutout on March 29, 2019 at LCA.
The Red Wings also improved to 11-3-2 at home this season.