DETROIT – In the days after the Red Wings moved into Little Caesars Arena, Henrik Zetterberg found it hard to get used to a new route to work. The Detroit forward said the first couple of mornings, “you were halfway to the Joe” before remembering that Joe Louis Arena wasn’t the team’s home any more.
Thursday, the Red Wings didn’t take long to get comfortable in the first regular-season game at their new place. After the Wild dug out of a 2-0 hole to tie the score, Zetterberg pounced on a loose puck in the slot and zipped it under goalie Devan Dubnyk to propel the Red Wings to a 4-2 victory in the season opener for both teams.
The captain’s goal at 7 minutes, 7 seconds of the third broke a 2-2 tie and spoiled a Wild rally. Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored within 48 seconds of each other early in the third period to erase Detroit’s lead. But the Wild went dormant after that, allowing the Red Wings to celebrate before an announced crowd of 19,515.
The Wild had two early goals disallowed because of goaltender interference, and it failed to score on a two-man advantage that lasted for 1:37 in the second period. The Red Wings built their lead via two power-play goals in 23 seconds, finishing 2-for-5 on the power play while holding the Wild scoreless on four chances.
“When you climb back in a game like that, down 2-0 on the road, you’d like to at least come out with a point,” said Stewart, who led the Wild with a goal and an assist. “We had some costly turnovers, and they made us pay.
“In this league, special teams has got to be the difference. That was the difference tonight.”
The $863 million Little Caesars Arena replaced Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings had played since 1979. Detroit missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 25 years, and coach Jeff Blashill expects the new place to give his team a lift. Thursday, after fans christened the rink by throwing three octopuses — a playoff tradition in Detroit — the Red Wings went to work.
The Wild put the puck over the goal line twice in the first period. Reviews showed Marcus Foligno interfered with Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard on the first, and Mikael Granlund made contact with Howard on the second. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said both “were the right calls.”
Dubnyk was strong early, making the game’s best save by blocking a Gustav Nyquist breakaway with his outstretched arm while on his back. But the Wild squandered a long 5-on-3, putting only two shots on net. When the Red Wings got a two-man advantage later in the second period, Anthony Mantha tucked in a rebound, and Dylan Larkin followed with a 5-on-4 goal on a deflection to make it 2-0.
“That was the story of the game,” Wild forward Jason Zucker said. “We have to try to be more mentally tough.”
The third line got the Wild back into it with two goals in the first three minutes of the third period. Stewart delivered a perfect pass to Eriksson Ek for a top-shelf goal, then glided across the crease to slip in a nice pass from Tyler Ennis to tie it 2-2 at 2:48.
The Wild went the next eight minutes without a shot on goal, while Zetterberg and Martin Frk gave the Red Wings the victory.
“They picked it up, and we were satisfied with, ‘Well, we tied it up,’ ” Boudreau said. “We didn’t keep our foot on the gas. Too many times, we were trying to be too cute rather than just blast it, get the rebound and get the greasy goals.”