Detroit — There was sneaking suspicion this game was going to go like this.
The Anaheim Ducks had lost 11 consecutive games, so, they weren't exactly on a wave of momentum.
And, maybe as expected, Detroit put Anaheim in position to finally steal a victory until a big third period carried the Red Wings to a 3-1 victory Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena.
Goals from Anthony Mantha, Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm, plus 23 saves from goaltender Jimmy Howard, gave the Wings their second consecutive victory and first back-to-back wins since Nov. 28 and Dec. 1 against St. Louis and Boston.
“In the last month we’ve played good hockey, but at the end of the day this league is about results,” said veteran forward Thomas Vanek, who spoke up after two periods in the Wings’ locker room. “That was the only message. We haven’t played our best, it’s 1-0 (the Wings trailing), so let’s go out and grab those points.
“It’s nice when you don’t play your best you want to get results; that’s what the league is all about.”
Thomas Vanek on what he reminded his Red Wings teammates in Tuesday's 3-1 comeback victory over the Ducks. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Vanek’s reminder appeared to resonate with many of the Wings.
“Sometimes we need a little fire under us and he did a great job of giving us a little boost,” said defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who returned to the lineup after missing six weeks with a wrist injury and had two assists.
Nyquist had the winner, his 11th goal, deflecting DeKeyser's shot from the high slot past goaltender John Gibson at 15 minutes, 44 seconds.
Helm gave the Wings cushion with his third goal, at 17:27, converting after the Ducks failed to clear their zone and snapping a shot past Gibson.
Mantha tied it at 1 at 5:25 of the third period on his 11th goal. Mantha one-timed a pass from Andreas Athanasiou coming down the wing, beating Gibson just inside the goal post.
Just like the victory over Minnesota on Saturday, the Wings had an impressive third period to cement the victory.
“There was a whole lot of nothing going on,” forward Dylan Larkin said of the opening 40 minutes. “In the third period we opened them up, playing fast. We got in front of Gibson. We waited for our opportunities and capitalized on them.”
The victory over Anaheim also gave further weight to Saturday’s win, as the Wings continue to climb out of their self-inflicted hole.
Coach Jeff Blashill talks about the Red Wings' stringing together wins against the Wild and Ducks following Tuesday's 3-1 victory at LCA. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“People ask me about the Minnesota game, but in order for it to mean something you have to win the next one and you have to keep winning,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Without question it was a winnable game. We sat there as a team and we had a choice to make. We went out and played a real good third period, and that’s good for us.”
The Wings (18-23-7, 43 points) moved four points clear of the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, while Anaheim, now winless in its last 12, is 19-19-9 (47 points).
“That team (Anaheim) over there, they have tremendous leaders and they’re struggling. Every team struggles in this league,” Vanek said. “It’s a matter of how quick you can get out of it. Hopefully we can keep going here and get some more points on the road.”