DETROIT – Dylan Larkin got his first career hat trick and added an assist as the Detroit Red Wings handed the New Jersey Devils their fifth consecutive loss, 5-2 on Saturday night.
“It did feel good. I’d never had one,” the Red Wings' captain said. “I think about my nana (grandmother) — she always gave me $5 for every goal and she always expected me to get a hat trick. I kept telling her it wasn’t that easy.”
Larkin made it look easy on Saturday, as the home fans showered the rink with hats before the second period ended.
However, he doesn't plan to keep the puck from his third goal of the night. He'll give it to rookie Kyle Criscuolo, who assisted on the goal.
“I’m passing that one to Crisky, because it is a huge deal for him to get his first NHL point and he did a great job setting me up,” Larkin said. “He definitely deserves it.”
Tyler Bertuzzi had two goals for Detroit and Thomas Greiss made 32 saves.
Michael McLeod and Dawson Mercer scored for New Jersey, and Akira Schmid made 26 saves in his second career start.
Larkin scored with 4:21 remaining in the opening period. Filip Hronek fired the puck into the New Jersey zone and it bounced off the end board. Schmid left the net to retrieve it but the puck bounced toward the crease, giving Larkin an open net to score.
McLeod tied the game with less than a minute left in the period. He lifted a shot past Greiss’ right shoulder.
“Greisser kept us in the game for the first 10 minutes, because we weren’t playing the way we wanted to play, but we corrected it after the first period,” said assistant coach Doug Houda, who helped fill in for Jeff Blashill after the head coach was placed in COVID protocol on Saturday. “I thought we got better for the second period and much better again in the third period.”
Larkin completed his hat trick during the second period. He scored from the slot with 8:12 left, then followed Bertuzzi’s first goal of the game with his team-high 15th on a breakaway with 4:13 remaining to make it 4-1.
Mercer scored a short-handed goal before the period ended to cut Detroit’s lead to 4-2.
Bertuzzi scored his 12th with 5:53 remaining in the game.
Devils coach Lindy Ruff said his best players have to be more productive.
“Our top guys were the ones that hurt us,” he said. “I thought our bottom forwards gave us a good night. They were great on the kill, scored the first goal and a shorthanded goal. All the good stuff. Our top guys have to be harder to play against, be harder on the puck, they have to win more battles."
Ruff shouldered the blame for his team's failures.
“Right now, we don’t have any options (due to injuries and illness). We still have to try and win a game,” he said. “All that is on me. That’s my responsibility. The way this team plays is my responsibility. ”
Both teams were depleted by the wave of positive COVID tests around the league.
Detroit learned on Saturday it would be without Blashill and top goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
They were placed in COVID protocol along with forwards Givani Smith, Carter Rowney and Filip Zadina and assistant coach Alex Tanguay. The Red Wings already had forwards Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen on the COVID list.
The Devils placed defenseman P.K. Subban in COVID protocol.
Defensemen Ryan Graves and Christian Jaros and forwards Nico Hischier and Jesper Boqvist were already on the protocol list. They were also without goalie Mackenzie Blackwood (neck) and forward Jesper Bratt (non-COVID illness).
“It’s unfair to our team, unfair to our fans that we have to play with a limited roster,” Ruff said.
New Jersey has allowed four or more goals in 15 games this season. ... The Red Wings recalled goaltender Calvin Pickard and forward Riley Barber to replenish the roster. ... Ben Simon, the head coach of Detroit’s AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, ran the team in Blashill’s absence. ... The teams will complete the three-game series with two games in April.
Devils: Host Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
Red Wings: Visit Minnesota North Stars on Thursday.
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