By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) – Henrik Zetterberg and Martin Frk scored in the third period to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night in the first regular-season game at Little Caesars Arena.
Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin scored 23 seconds apart in the second period for the Red Wings, who rallied after blowing a 2-0 lead early in the third. Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored 48 seconds apart to tie it, and then Zetterberg put Detroit back ahead to stay with 12:53 remaining.
The Red Wings said goodbye to Joe Louis Arena in April and moved to a new downtown venue they’ll share with the Detroit Pistons. The Red Wings missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1990, and although expectations are low at the moment, they opened with a victory.
Even before the opening faceoff, fans were already partaking in that old Detroit tradition of tossing octopi on the ice. The puck went across the Detroit goal line twice in the first, but goaltender interference was called both times and the period ended scoreless. Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk made the save of the night when, while sprawled on his back, he swung his left arm across to deny Gustav Nyquist on a breakaway.
The Wild wasted a two-man advantage in the second period, and Detroit took full advantage of a similar opportunity. Mantha opened the scoring on a two-man advantage, and with the Red Wings still a man up after that, Larkin redirected the puck past Dubnyk to make it 2-0.
Detroit is counting on younger players like Mantha and Larkin in its rebuilding effort, but it was the grizzled veteran Zetterberg, who turns 37 on Monday, who gave the Red Wings the lead again after Minnesota tied it. Zetterberg collected the puck in the slot, and his wrist shot went between Dubnyk’s legs. Frk made it 4-2 with his first NHL goal.
Jimmy Howard had 37 saves for Detroit.
The atmosphere was subdued for much of the night, and the empty seats in the lower level around the start of the second and third periods suggested fans may have been taking extra time to enjoy the new arena’s amenities on the concourse – but the action on the ice picked up considerably in the final period.
Red Wings: Visit Ottawa on Saturday night.
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