With a scoop of the puck and a flick of his wrist, Tomas Tatar raised his hands in the air and celebrated amid a wave of relief. The monkey had finally been lifted off his back.
Tatar, who led the Red Wings with 29 goals last season, scored his first of the year in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Oilers.
The Detroit forward corralled a rebound and swiftly slipped a backhand shot past goaltender Cam Talbot for the Wings’ lone score of the game.
No, the outcome obviously wasn’t what Detroit had hoped for, as its losing streak extended to three games. But it was promising to see Tatar net his first goal, especially since he was skating alongside new — albeit very familiar — linemates: Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist.
Tatar began the year playing with veteran Brad Richards because it appeared the pair established considerable chemistry during the preseason. But through five regular-season games, each had yet to score a goal and only contributed a pair of assists.
Wings coach Jeff Blashill decided it was time to shake the team’s lines up a bit to spark more scoring opportunities.
Therefore, Tatar found himself skating with Sheahan and Nyquist, the “kid line” that has experienced a lot of success over the past two seasons. And the reunion paid off.
“I’m not going to lie, I was excited to see the puck in the net,” Tatar said. “It’s always a relief to get the monkey off the back.”
Tatar was quick to note that he would gladly trade his goal for a victory, but the line change might be just the catalyst Blashill was seeking to help jumpstart the Wings’ offense.
Detroit’s shooting woes have been well-documented through six games, and the team ranks dead last in the league with only 22.7 shots per game.
“I thought Sheahan, Tatar and Nyquist at the beginning of the second period, they came out and had an unreal shift right away,” Blashill said. “I thought they were very good most of the night.”
Despite the loss, Tatar’s goal was a welcoming sight for a Red Wings team that has relied so heavily on the production of Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader and Dylan Larkin of late. Before Wednesday’s matchup in Edmonton, Detroit’s top line combined for 20 of the team’s 49 points.
It’s no secret that the lack of production from the Wings’ other three lines has contributed to the team’s losing streak. The return of the young and energetic “kid line” could be just what Detroit needs to right the ship and finish its four-game Canadian road trip on a high note.