By Matt Mackinder –
DETROIT – Baby steps.
In what has been a trying season so far for the Red Wings, they’ll take a two-game winning streak.
One night after blanking Nashville at home to erase a five-game losing skid, Detroit hosted Vancouver Sunday afternoon and with a depleted lineup, as has been the case much of the year, used three power-play goals in the second period to drop the Canucks by a convincing 8-3 count at Joe Louis Arena.
“It was fun to see the puck go in (on the power play),” said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. “We’d been struggling a little bit, but all four lines have been doing a really good job and we’ve been getting some nice offense.”
Damien Brunner scored twice for the Red Wings (9-7-3) and now has 10 goals on the year, while Niklas Kronwall had a goal and two assists to now lead all NHL defensemen in scoring with 16 points. He’s also plus-6 in the past two games.
“We wanted to come out strong and we’re obviously happy we put eight in the net,” said Brunner. “(Luongo) is a great goaltender and you have to beat him by putting pucks to the net and driving the net hard. I’m happy they’re going in right now and I have two good linemates (Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula) who know how to get me the puck and that gives you confidence.”
Daniel Sedin started the scoring for Vancouver (10-4-4) with a goal at 5:45 of the first period, but Jordin Tootoo knotted the game at 11:08 with a wrist shot that went through traffic and past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
“You always know when Tootoo is on the ice,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He runs over people. You know when he’s on the ice, he’s coming hard and he always made me nervous when I was in Spokane in junior and he’d play against our team and drive us crazy and he did the same when he was in Nashville. We’re happy to have him.”
Kronwall made it 2-1 on a blast from the point at 12:37 before Sedin tallied his second of the game at 16:18 and Chris Higgins made it 3-2 Canucks with 1:34 left in the opening period.
“This was a tough game because it’s a 5:00 game the day after a 7:00 game and a game that you’re not sure you’ll have an opportunity to win,” Babcock said. “We’ve fortunate to grab back-to-back wins going out on the road.
“I thought the first period was real tight for both teams, but (Vancouver) had basically four good chances and scored on three of them. We had great leadership from Zetterberg, Kronwall and (Pavel) Datsyuk and I thought they were all fantastic today in helping us be successful.”
Dan Cleary tied the game just 2:57 into the second and Zetterberg put the Red Wings ahead 4-3 at 15:10 of the middle stanza. Zetterberg added two assists for a three-point game.
Brunner at 19:18 of the second and 9:36 of the third period and then Joakim Andersson at 16:39 and 17:31 rounded out the scoring.
Babcock praised the 24-year-old Andersson and was blunt in his assessment.
“He’s a smart guy and about 215 pounds and I like smart and I like big guys,” said Babcock. “So, good for him.”
Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard finished with 18 saves, while Luongo stopped 20 in the loss.
The Red Wings now get set to play at Los Angeles on Wednesday and at San Jose Thursday night before hosting Chicago next Sunday.
“All you have to do is look at the standings and see it’s a tight, tight league and we just have to keep finding ways to get points,” said Babcock. “Every time you get injuries, you have to re-shuffle your team and the way that it plays. We needed to get organized and I thought the guys were good tonight. We’ll breathe tomorrow and then head out west on Tuesday.”
NOTEBOOK: Defenseman Kyle Quincey (leg) was the lone scratch for Detroit … Tom McCollum was recalled from Grand Rapids and backed up Howard after Jonas Gustavsson’s groin started acting up again … The game was the 83rd straight sellout at Joe Louis Arena.