Wings' playoff push down to nudge with win over Flyers
Detroit — The Red Wings closed out the home portion of their regular season schedule Wednesday, but they might returning in the playoffs.
That possibility was strengthened after the Red Wings defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-0.
With the victory, the Red Wings moved two points (93-91) ahead of Boston for automatic playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and two points ahead of Philadelphia (93-91) in the wild-card chase.
Either way, the Red Wings did themselves a big favor with Wednesday’s victory.
“That was two teams that really needed the point and you saw that once in a while, it got a little chippy,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I don’t think it was a prettiest game but we got the two points and that’s what matters.”
The Red Wings can clinch a 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs Thursday in Boston by defeating the Bruins.
It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Red Wings, approximately 20 hours after completing this victory.
“This was a good win,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Let’s focus on trying to win a hockey game (Thursday).
“It was a good game, we played a pretty complete game. Great energy in the building. We certainly had good jump and good urgency. We didn’t give up a lot of chances.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard continued his late-season revival with 30 saves, and Darren Helm, Andreas Athanasiou (short-handed) and Kyle Quincey (empty net) scored Red Wings goals.
Howard won his fourth consecutive start, frustrating the Flyers with some timely saves in the third period for his second shutout.
“Just paying attention to detail,” said Howard of what’s helping transform the Red Wings the past few weeks. “We’ve limited our turnovers at the blue line and we’ve been a lot smarter with the puck, not forcing things. Just work with what’s given.”
The Red Wings penalty kill was outstanding, snuffing five Flyers power plays — all 16 Philadelphia power plays this season in three games against them — and Athanasiou scoring shorthanded.
Athanasiou capitalized on a lucky bounce on his goal at 3:15 of the second period.
The Flyers rimmed the puck in their zone but the puck bounced over the stick of Flyers forward Jakub Voracek and straight to Helm at the point, who had an open lane to the Flyers' net.
Athanasiou tucked the puck past goalie Steve Mason for his eighth goal this season.
“He (Athanasiou) has that lightning speed and when he gets those opportunities, he can do a real good job,” Blashill said.
Helm, who had one of his best games of the season, also capitalized on a Flyers turnover.
Flyers defenseman Shane Gostisbehere, pressured on a good Brad Richards forecheck in the corner, directed the puck toward Mason.
The rebound went straight to Helm, who got just enough of the shot to deflect it over Mason’s shoulder and into the net, Helm’s 13th goal.
“It makes it a little easier to get the momentum when you get the first goal,” Zetterberg said. “After that second went in, we didn’t let up. We kept going, playing. They had their chances, but Howie was good in net.”
The victory was the Red Wings’ third consecutive victory and fourth in five games.
“We have several guys who’ve been through this, playing the last several days to get into the playoffs,” Howard said. “The push has been going on here for a while. When it wasn’t going well, the confidence never wavered in this room.”