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Detroit Red Wings

Larkin Return Wakes Up Red Wings; Puts Dagger in Islanders, 6-3



Dylan Larkin, Red Wings

DETROIT – Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde admitted he wasn’t sleeping much when the losses were piling up with Dylan Larkin down with a lower body injury. The team was 2-6 since he was injured on March 2.

“You can see the bags under my eyes, those are real,” he said.

His saving grace is an afternoon nap he takes to relax. But he couldn’t sleep today.

“That’s just the excitement I had just having Dylan (Larkin back) and the opportunity,” Lalonde said. “I’m sure our guys felt the same.”

Everyone’s excitement was not misplaced as Larkin logged 16 minutes and 32 seconds of ice time and netted two goals, including an important empty netter. He contributed mightily to the Red Wings 6-3 triumph over the New York Islanders. The win gives Detroit a three-point lead over the Washington Capitals and a five-point advantage over the Islanders for the final playoff spot.

Restored Confidence

More importantly,  the return of the team’s captain seemed to provide teammates a booster shot of confidence.

Lalonde said Larkin tried to play Tuesday against Columbus. “He was every disappointed that our athletic training staff was just doing their job,”  Lalonde said.

Larkin was more adamant today. “He didn’t get the OK until the afternoon,” the coach said.

His teammates understood how important it was to have him back in the lineup. They were more excited than usual when he scored his first goal.

“There was a little bit more jump,” Red Wings forward Christian Fischer said. “I’m sitting right next to the guy, but he means everything to this team. The season that he’s had up until that injury is remarkable. I’ve seen a true number one center, which is really hard to find. He drives the play. I think you could see every guy just competing a little bit harder, just having the presence of Larks back there. It’s huge for this group. You saw it the last three weeks of us kind of slipping a little bit. I think that played a factor into it. Emotionally, you’re missing your horse. It’s pretty easy to see once he’s back how much the guys want it and how much the guys care.”

Larkin netted a second period goal to give Detroit a 3-1 lead. He added an empty netter with 3:45 remaining in regulation, a meaningful tally because the Islanders had rallied from 5-1 to make it 5-3.  Larkin’s second goal was the 207th of his NHL career, tying Gerard Gallant for 14th place on Detroit’s all-time list.

No Difficulty

“I felt great,” Larkin said. “Was a little bit wired and yelling a lot…A little too much pre-workout. I was excited to get back in. It means a lot to me, it means a lot to our fans, every guy in this room. I think we just gotta keep this rolling and continue to win hockey games.”

Lalonde said the big difference with Larkin back is Detroit players are “slotted correctly.”

“It’s unbelievable, the difference,” Lalonde said. “Maybe shame on our group, shame on the staff for not getting more out of the group with Dylan out. It’s unbelievable the difference when everyone is slotted where they should be.”

Lalonde thought Larkin had a hint of rust early — he had a high-grade scoring chance in the slot and didn’t cash in — but overall Lalonde thought his play was excellent.

“Didn’t (use) him on the penalty kill, so that helped,” Lalonde said. “And we only had one power play. It was him being able to concentrate on his five-on-five play helped him tonight.”