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Monday night, the Red Wings played a game at Joe Louis Arena for the first time in more than 16 months.

Actually, it was 504 days, 4 hours and 30 minutes between opening faceoffs, but who's counting? Forgive and forget, right? Well, if the exhibition home opener is any indication, the NHL was welcomed back with open arms here in Hockeytown.

"We're real lucky in Michigan: It's like a big chunk of Canada down here, where everybody's just dying to have hockey," said Mike Babcock, the Wings' new coach. "I think we're real fortunate in that. But that doesn't mean we can't reach out and do what we have to do to try to get the game back where it should be. ... We want to give the fans something to be excited about."

Lightning 5, Red Wings 3

A crowd of approximately 11,000 welcomed the Wings with a short, loud roar when they took the ice Monday night. The Wings, and the rest of the NHL, were idle during what should have been the 2004-05 season because of the lockout. Owners and players finally reached agreement on a collective bargaining agreement in July.

"It felt good to be back out there. It seems there will be a lot of specialty teams this year," said Kris Draper, who got two goals for the Wings.

"That's what everyone is talking about right now, the amount of penalties that were called."

Nicklas Lidstrom got the other Wings goal.

Fredrik Modin got two goals (one on a power play) for the Lightning. Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis (power play) and Evgeny Artyukhin also scored.

Manny Legace and Jimmy Howard split the goaltending for the Wings.

Howard took over to start the third period of a 2-2 game and promptly gave up goals on the first two shots he saw -- to St. Louis and Artyukhin in the first 2:02.

"As a group, I didn't think we were quick enough. We have to continue to skate," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I'd like us to be more competitive on the puck."

Fans also got a taste of the shoot-out, which will decide any tie games this season. The NHL has implemented shoot-outs for every game during the exhibition season, regardless of score. The fans who remaining Monday showed enthusiasm for the shoot-out, if not for the game.
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