Two late goals lift Red Wings over Devils

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
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Detroit — This will make for a joyful New Year among Red Wings fans.

And a Red Wings team that needed a victory.

Henrik Zetterberg scored at 14:59 of the third period, and Darren Helm scored twice, giving the Red Wings a 3-1 victory over New Jersey Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

The victory was the 20th of the season for the Red Wings (20-9-9, 49 points), who were coming off a disappointing loss Monday in Boston.

"We knew we needed a win, we knew we had to play hard after the last couple of games," Helm said. "They (the two-game road trip) weren't great. We knew it was going to take a shot in the third to pull it off."

Zetterberg's shot from near the top of the circle appeared to deflect off a stick, then bounced and knuckled past Devils goalie Cory Schneider to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead.

Just 36 seconds later, Helm made it 3-1 with a great individual effort.

Helm gathered the puck inside the blue line and out-muscled Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas to the net, slipping the puck past Schneider for his seventh goal (and second of the evening).

"Helm was good, he competed," coach Mike Babcock said. "I didn't think his line was any good in Boston but it was good to see them bounce back."

The Red Wings now begin a two-month stretch of mostly playing away from Joe Louis Arena, a staggering 17 of 23 games beginning with Saturday's in Vancouver.

"I won't say it'll be nice to go on the road but we don't see these trips anymore," Zetterberg said. "Now we go on the road, it's mostly in and out (of the city). We'll get a long trip (here) and it'll be good for our group to get together and spend time together."

Helm and New Jersey's Joe Whitney traded second-period goals.

Whitney gave the Devils a brief 1-0 lead with his first career goal.

Brendan Smith had the puck in the corner and attempted to feed Drew Miller coming out of the circle.

But Whitney's stick was just one of several that seemed to get a piece of the puck before Whitney gathered it near the dot.

Whitney wound up and snapped a rising shot that beat Jimmy Howard high at 15:37, giving the Devils the lead.

But the Red Wings quickly answered.

Helm's line applied pressure on the Devils deep in the zone, forcing the Devils defense to scramble.

Helm took control of the puck near the the post, wheeled behind the net, and wrapped the puck around the other post, the puck bouncing off the left pad of Schneider and flipping into the net at 17:56.

It was Helm's 50th career goal.

Neither team could capitalize on power-play opportunities in the tightly played game.

The Red Wings, entering the game with the NHL's top-ranked power play, failed on four attempts while New Jersey was kept off the scoreboard on three.

It took Zetterberg's goal late in the third period to break the tie.

"I wanted to see us compete from start to finish and that's what we did," Babcock said. "Now we're going on a good road trip, and it's good for our team. It'll be good for our development. I like the direction our team is going."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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