DETROIT – The Wild helped christen the Detroit Red Wings’ shiny new palace on Thursday night and left town seeing red.
Literally and figuratively.
Everything inside Little Caesars Arena is decorated bright red. All red uniforms. Red seats. Red strobe lights. Red banners commemorating Stanley Cup championships.
Red, red, red.
That color captured the Wild’s mood, too, after a strange performance in a 4-2 loss in the season opener.
“Overall, we just weren’t good enough,” winger Jason Zucker said.
Perfect description. The Wild did some things well but also had enough mistakes and sloppy play to allow the Red Wings to celebrate their grand opening with a joyous result.
Openers often inspire overreactions, but this one felt weird more than anything.
The Wild gave up two goals in a span of 23 seconds in the second period, then scored two goals in a span of 48 seconds in the third, then went dormant to squander any shot of earning at least one point.
The Wild seemed to lose its edge after linemates Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart quieted the revved-up arena with bang-bang goals.
“We didn’t keep our foot on the gas, that’s for sure,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The Wild looked like it might mash the accelerator early on, but two overturned goals in the first period because of goalie interference deflated their mood.
Both times Wild players jostled with Detroit players while making contact with goalie Jimmy Howard.
“I haven’t seen that happen in a long time,” Zucker said. “It’s unfortunate that they made those calls, but that’s the way it went.”
Said Boudreau: “They were the right calls.”
Tough breaks happen. The Wild had chances to overcome those but failed to capitalize.
Both teams got handed extended 5-on-3 advantages in the second period. One team converted, one didn’t. Story of the game.
The Wild did nothing with its two-man advantage for 1:38. That included captain Mikko Koivu floating a shot at an open net across the crease.
Unlike the Wild, the Red Wings didn’t fool around with the puck with their 5-on-3 advantage. They scored two goals 23 seconds apart on a rebound and a deflection.
“In this league special teams has to be the difference,” Stewart said. “We didn’t capitalize on our chances, and when they got theirs, they put them home.”
The Wild anticipated a super-charged atmosphere as the Red Wings officially opened their new arena after saving goodbye to historic Joe Louis Arena.
Season openers always feature pomp and circumstance, but the debut of a new arena made this particularly festive. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill referred it as an “event.”
“This is more than just a game,” he said.
The Wild didn’t appear affected by all the hoopla. The Wild controlled the puck for long stretches and outshot the Red Wings for the game. Boudreau felt his players could have done more with their opportunities.
“I thought there were too many times that we were trying to be too cute and make the perfect play,” he said.
The Wild had the Red Wings on the ropes and let them recover. That’s the most disappointing part of their performance. Rather than pounce after scoring two quick goals in the third, the Wild relaxed, allowing the Red Wings to score twice.
“We had a lot of times where we left Duby out to dry and he bailed us out,” Zucker said.
One of Devan Dubnyk’s saves was magnificent. In the first period, he found himself on an island after Gustav Nyquist turned defenseman Matt Dumba inside out with a nifty move, creating a breakaway.
Dubnyk lunged to his right and rolled onto his back as Nyquist waited to shoot the puck. Dubnyk twirled and flung his left arm in an act of desperation. Nyquist’s shot hit Dubnyk’s glove, eliciting a loud groan.
Highlights were too few in number, though. The Wild simply didn’t play well enough to win, especially after stunning the Red Wings with a tying goal.
“It’s pretty deflating when that happens,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully you learn from it.”
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org