Detroit – Suddenly the Red Wings aren’t looking as feeble, and hurt, and incapable of consistently winning.
They are a dangerous team.
Friday they won their third game (of four) on this five-game home stand with a 4-1 victory over Montreal.
The home stretch ends Sunday against the Florida Panthers.
Slowly the Red Wings are getting players back from injuries, the young players who’ve come up from Grand Rapids continue to impress, and the overall situation doesn’t look as dire after several victories.
“A step in the right direction,” Niklas Kronwall said. “The way we’re playing, it’s because we’ve been working harder — working smarter, I should say — and just doing the little things right.”
Henrik Zetterberg (power play), Riley Sheahan, Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist had goals for the Red Wings (23-18-10, 56 points) and goalie Jonas Gustavsson made 30 saves as Detroit moved to within three points of Montreal in the Atlantic Division.
Daniel Alfredsson returned to the lineup Friday and assisted on Zetterberg’s goal. Darren Helm, Gustavsson and Jonathan Ericsson have all returned in recent days from the injured list.
Slowly, the Red Wings are getting whole again, and it shows on the ice.
“Obviously it’s important for us,” said coach Mike Babcock of getting key players back. “They’re good players. But (Luke) Glendening, Sheahan and (Tomas) Jurco, they’ve done a real good job for us. Our team is playing harder. When you play hard, you have a chance.”
Brendan Gallagher (power play) scored for the Canadiens (27-19-5, 59 points).
Kronwall’s goal, his sixth, gave the Red Wings a 3-1 lead at 16:29 of the second period, shortly after Gallagher had cut the Red Wings lead in half.
On the play, Nyquist backhanded a pass into the slot that Gallagher deflected directly to Kronwall, alone between the circles.
Kronwall wristed a shot that goalie Carey Price never saw, Justin Abdelkader cruising through the slot and depriving Price of any good view.
Nyquist capped the scoring with his eighth goal at 18:41 of the third.
“Nyquist made a ton of good plays,” Babcock said. “When he skates, he’s dynamic. He just has to continue to skate, that’s the biggest thing. When he’s not skating, and watching (instead), he’s not as good.”
Zetterberg opened the game’s scoring with his 16th goal in the first period.
With the Red Wings on a two-man advantage, Alfredsson, who returned to the lineup after missing six games with back problems, set up Zetterberg for a one-timer from the circle that beat Price at 12:27 of the period.
Price had no chance, Daniel Cleary screening the goalie perfectly.
Sheahan pushed the lead to 2-0 at 11:48 of the second period.
Sheahan gathered a puck near the top of the circle and fired a high shot that beat Price cleanly, Sheahan’s second goal of the season.
“Sheahan looks like a real good player,” Babcock said.
The combination of impressive young players filtering into this lineup could be intriguing.
“It’s awesome the way these young guys have come up and played well for us,” Kronwall said. “They’ve been doing great things for us, heavy on the puck, at the same time scoring, and giving another element to our team.”