By Will Burchfield
First he took a stick to the face. Then he was cross-checked over the arm. By that point, Dylan Larkin had had enough.
He dropped his gloves and settled things the old-fashioned way with Nashville Predators defenseman Yannick Weber, landing a couple of rights to Weber’s chops and then wrestling him to the ice.
It was the first fight of Larkin’s hockey career.
“I was wondering if he was trying out for a Bruise Brothers spot there,” chuckled coach Jeff Blashill. “But it was good. We’ve talked about sticking up for each other, but you also gotta stick up for yourself sometimes and I think over two years he’s taken lots of abuse, so I thought he did a good job. Good for him.”
The 20-year-old Larkin was bashful about the fight afterward, shying away from questions and downplaying his triumph.
“We got tangled up, high stick and I reacted to it, he cross-checked me and it just happened. So it was part of the game, I guess, and something I don’t really want to do,” Larkin said.
Still, he held his own.
“Yeah, I guess,” he demurred. “I don’t think (Weber’s) a fighter either, but it was good to come out on top.”
Larkin is listed at 6’1, 190 pounds. Weber checks in at 5’11, 200 pounds. Neither of them had been in a fight in the NHL prior to Friday night’s game, which the Red Wings won by a score of 5-3.
Larkin’s teammates loved every bit of his bare-knuckled debut.
“He stood up for himself which is great, he’s a young guy. I bet he enjoyed it and he did pretty well,” said Tomas Tatar, who put the Wings ahead 3-2 with a goal early in the third period.
“Definitely impressed,” said Drew Miller. “He’s a strong kid so it was fun to see that.”
The fans at Joe Louis Arena instantly came to their feet when Larkin dropped his gloves and roared their approval when he drove Weber down to the ice.
“It was about as loud as I’ve ever heard a building for Larks there,” said Ryan Sproul, who shined in his season debut. “So good for him and that was fun.”
Larkin heard the cheers as well, something he usually revels in after scoring a goal.
“Yea it was pretty loud. I think I’d rather have it that loud after a goal but I guess that’s not going (right now), so get the building loud some other way,” he said.
It’s been a slow start to the season for Larkin, who has just one point through the Wings’ first five games. But his fight on Friday night helped spur Detroit to its third straight victory.
“I hope it got the guys going a little bit and showed that I was there to battle,” he said.
As Larkin sat down in the penalty box, he said he saw Riley Sheahan laughing on the bench.
“So I was laughing too,” Larkin smiled.
“We were impressed on the bench, for sure, and we were proud of him,” said Tatar.
Larkin’s scrap was the fifth one for the Wings this season, as the team is demonstrating a mean streak in the early going.
“I don’t think we had five all last year but it’s fun, we’re battling,” Larkin said. “You can’t question our compete level and how bad we want to win.”
“We’re tough,” grinned the 5’10 Tatar.
Then, lest Larkin be made out as a heavyweight, Tatar reminded everyone of the tale of the tape.
“He wasn’t fighting a Chara,” he said, “but good for him. It’s off his back and I think he did pretty well.”