ST. LOUIS – If he could get one, coach Mike Babcock certainly would take a mulligan on the Red Wings’ season-opener Saturday night at Scottrade Center.
The Wings were thoroughly out-manned, out-hustled and out-worked in a lopsided 6-0 loss to the Central Division rival Blues, which is the first time Detroit has been shut-out in a season-opener in 55 years.
“They were quicker, more competitive on the puck. We gave them goals. They got in behind us shorthanded; they got in behind us on the penalty kill. They walked by us,” Babcock said. “I can think of four goals that were just gifts, not even earned. You got to give them credit, they were all over us, and we didn't generate anything.”
Two goals each by forward Chris Stewart and rookie sensation Vladimir Tarasenko helped the Blues cruise to their win, which officially started the condensed 48-game NHL season following a 119-day lockout.
From the opening shift, the Blues were the dominant team, maintaining puck-possession in the offensive end of the ice for most of the first period and the game. If it weren’t for the incredible job that Jimmy Howard turned in early, the Blues’ lead could have been much larger after the first 20-minutes.
“That's not a good way to start off the year,” said Howard, who was pulled early in the third period. “They're a good team. They're big, they're fast and they're physical. And they kept it simple. They kept the pucks in front of them, they skated really hard and got it in on the forecheck and made it tough on us.”
The Blues held a 17-2 advantage in shots on goal and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on an even-strength goal by Tarasenko and a power-play tally by Stewart. The Blues out-shot the Wings in the game, 36-14, and held Detroit’s two star forwards, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg without a shot between them.
“Obviously, it was not the start we wanted,” Zetterberg said. “They were better than us in every field. Starting from faceoffs to five-on-five, PK, power play, so it wasn't a good game.”
Zetterberg couldn’t pinpoint one thing that was the overwhelming reason for the Wings’ poor performance, only saying afterwards, “Just got to regroup tomorrow, practice and look at what we did wrong, and what we did right and move on.”
The Wings’ new-look power play – with Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Johan Franzen up front, and Niklas Kronwall and Damien Brunner at the point – was also off Saturday, going 0-for-5 and five shots on goal with the man-advantage.
“If we get one there (in first period) it would be a different game,” Zetterberg said. “But we didn't. They got two and one shorty, I think. That wasn't good either.”
Tarasenko, the Russian rookie sharp-shooter, is the 14th player in Blues’ history to score in his NHL debut. His second goal – on the power play – on his second shot of the game gave the Blues a 3-0 lead in the second period.
St. Louis scored four power-play goals, but added a short-handed tally when Alex Pietrangelo sent T.J. Oshie on a clear breakaway through the neutral zone. The Blues’ center then beat Howard at 16:09 of the second for a 4-0 lead.
The Blues added two more goals in the third, including Stewart’s second of the game, which marked the end of the night for Howard, who yielded to backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson just 75-seconds into the final period. Gustavsson, who was signed in July, made seven saves on eight shots.
Saturday’s loss was the Wings’ worst defeat since a 7-1 drubbing at Washington early last season. It was the first time Detroit was shutout on opening night since the 1958-59 season when they dropped a 2-0 decision at Montreal.
THREE STARS: 3, STL, Jaroslav Halak (shutout, 14 saves); 2, STL, Chris Stewart (two goals); 1, STL, Vladimir Tarasenko (two goals).
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