By Matt Mackinder –
DETROIT – This one was over before it started.
Or at least, it was over 35 seconds into the first period.
Valtteri Filppula scored the game’s first goal and added another in the second period as the Red Wings defeated the Minnesota Wild 6-0 Friday night in front of another sold-out crowd Joe Louis Arena. Rookie Brendan Smith recorded his first NHL goal in the win, and Niklas Kronwall added three assists.
After a mini-slump, Detroit is now on a mini-winning streak after beating Columbus on Wednesday night.
“I thought we had good energy, the ‘D’ moved the puck and the forwards got on it and (Henrik) Zetterberg’s line was dominant,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “It was a good win four team and we obviously have teams coming up here that are stiff competition and you can’t afford to drop one like this at home.”
Jimmy Howard earned the shutout with a 19-save outing.
Smith scored in his Joe Louis Arena debut at 16:04 of the first period when he crashed the net and knocked in a loose puck top-shelf past Minnesota starting goalie Josh Harding (29 saves). The highly-touted rookie’s parents were in the Joe Louis Arena crowd to witness the goal, as well.
“It’s so exciting,” said Smith, the Red Wings’ first-round draft pick in 2007. “I don’t know if I’ve come down yet from Cloud 9 or what not, but it’s really exciting. There are no words to describe the first goal, but on top of that, to win in my first game here at ‘The Joe’ is pretty cool and I know the boys are all happy for me and my parents and my grandfather in the stands as well, so we’re all pretty excited.”
Darren Helm made it 3-0 at 7:05 of the second. Johan Franzen fed Helm, who streaked into the Wild zone. He bumped with a Wild defender, lost the puck, but quickly jumped on the loose puck and wristed a laser over Harding’s glove.
It was Filppula again at 16:35. Zetterberg gathered the puck behind the net and centered to Filppula, who wired one past Harding.
With the two goals, Filppula now has 21 on the year, eclipsing his previous career-high of 19.
“It’s nice, but when you get to play a lot, the expectations, at least for me, get higher,” said Filppula. “You want to do more to help the team and you expect to make things happen.”
Ian White got into the scoring barrage at 17:42 when a harmless shot from the right-wing half-boards eluded Harding.
Zetterberg then scored 5:30 into the third. White passed to Filppula down low, who went back up top to Zetterberg, whose snap shot went into the empty net as Harding had come out thinking Filppula would shoot.
Matt Hackett, a former Plymouth Whaler (2007-2010), relieved Harding at that point and stopped all six shots he faced.
The line of Zetterberg, Filppula and Jiri Hudler has been a three-man wrecking crew as of late, but to Babcock, that’s really no surprise, especially in Zetterberg’s case.
“(Zetterberg) has been getting better for a long time and he didn’t have the start he wanted,” said Babcock. “He’s been playing better and better and then the points started to come. I think him and ‘Fil’ and ‘Huds’ have been real good for us, obviously, and they’re leading the club right now.”
Howard’s shutout was preserved when an apparent goal by Darroll Powe late in the third period was ruled no goal when the on-ice officials determined Powe was pushed into Howard.
Looking ahead, the Red Wings host Chicago on Sunday afternoon.
“They beat us last time we played them and it was a game we felt we had an opportunity in,” Babcock said. “We came and played really well in that game, so we’re looking forward to (Sunday).”
NOTEBOOK: Todd Bertuzzi left the game with a lower body injury in the second period and did not return. Babcock didn’t have a status update after the game … Hackett is the nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett … Tonight was Fox Sports Detroit broadcaster Ken Daniels’ 1000th game with the Red Wings.