By Michael Caples –
DETROIT – The Red Wings found a way to win once again Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Sitting one point outside of playoff spot with three games to go, the Red Wings scored twice in the third period to pick up a 3-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Jordin Tootoo tipped in a shot from Patrick Eaves to break a 1-1 tie five minutes into the third period, and Johan Franzen increased the Red Wings’ lead to two on a power-play goal eight minutes later.
Tootoo’s goal – the game-winner and third of the season for the rugged forward – was a result of continued pressure from he and linemates Eaves and Cory Emmerton.
“I thought we had a pretty good forecheck there,” Tootoo said. “Kind of made a couple plays out of the corner, Paddy had a nice hsot in the slot there, and we were just persistent on the puck, and when you go to the net hard, good things happen.
“Well any time you can contribute as a fourth-line player, it’s always exciting. You don’t get to do that too often, but when you do, you have to make the best of it.”
Pavel Datsyuk scored in the second period to tie the game for the Wings.
Jimmy Howard stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced for his 19th win of the season.
The win moves the Red Wings into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, with two games left in the regular season. Detroit has Nashville at home tomorrow, and then they conclude the shortened NHL campaign in Dallas on Saturday.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said he was pleased with the top-to-bottom effort from his team.
“Well I think everyone chipped in,” Zetterberg said. “We knew they would come out and be physical, and we responded well. We played with four lines and everyone did a good job.”
Howard pointed out that balanced scoring is crucial for the Red Wings, because they can’t rely on the their first-line talent night after night.
“It takes a lot of pressure off our top two lines,” the Wings’ goaltender said. “You can’t always be looking at Mule and Pav and Z to carry the load offensively for us, you need secondary scoring.”
The Kings took the first lead of the night when Kyle Clifford scored during a scramble in front of the Wings’ goal 5:28 into the second period.
Datsyuk, however, was able to tie the game up for the Wings just five minutes later, when he took a feed from Jonathan Ericsson, deked all-star defenseman Drew Doughty, and beat goaltender Jonathan Quick with a backhand.
The goal, also assisted by Zetterberg, was Datsyuk’s 14th of the season.
Tootoo recorded the game-winner at the 5:42 mark of the third period, on a goal originally credited to Emmerton. After a few minutes, it was announced on the Joe Louis Arena sound system that Tootoo was awarded the goal.
“He made some nice plays tonight,” Zetterberg said of Tootoo. “He had some good passes and some physical play, and it was nice to see him get rewarded.”
Franzen increased the Wings’ lead when he redirected a pass from Zetterberg past Quick, at the 13:34 mark of the third. The power-play tally was Franzen’s 13th goal of the year.
The Wings don’t have much time to regroup; they welcome the Nashville Predators to Joe Louis Arena tomorrow night. Tootoo said that his team won’t be resting on the fact that they are momentarily back in the No. 8 spot in the West.
“Well we still have two more games to go here,” Tootoo said. “It’s a matter of looking forward to tomorrow night here – we need points every night.”