The Detroit Red Wings earned an important two points over the Winnipeg Jets after the visiting team left the first period with a 2-0 lead.
Despite registering 12 shots in the first period, the Red Wings could not solve backup netminder Michael Hutchinson Thursday.
Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek, who has struggled of late, was tested early and often. The first such test came by way of a Drew Stafford breakaway. Stafford attempted a backhand-forehand move which Mrazek stopped with the left pad.
Shortly after the midway mark of the first, Mathieu Perrault set up Marko Dano (acquired by Winnipeg in the Andrew Ladd trade) in the slot. Dano one-timed it high past Mrazek. Both Detroit defenders Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson were caught behind the net allowing an easy set-up pass in close.
Tomas Tatar had a great chance a few minutes later, also attempting a backhand-forehand maneuver, but Hutchinson was able to stick his right pad out to impede his forward progress and break up the scoring chance.
Defenseman Tyler Myers proved he’s more than a stay-at-home defenseman with 3:29 to play in the opening stanza. The six-foot-eight blueliner faked a shot, moved into the slot after deking past captain Henrik Zetterberg and wristed the puck past Mrazek for the two-goal lead.
6:40 into the middle frame, Justin Abdelkader dug the puck out of the corner and dished a no-look pass to the tape of rookie Dylan Larkin’s stick. Larkin scored through the five-hole and in doing so snapped a seven-game scoreless streak. The goal is his 20th of the season.
“It’s always nice to score when you haven’t seen the net in a while,” said Zetterberg of his linemate Larkin. “I thought he’s been creating a lot of chances today. I think he could have one or two more but it was nice to see that he scores. He needs that.”
Near the halfway mark, big defenseman Dustin Byfuglien found himself a breakaway with Detroit defenseman Mike Green close behind. Byfuglien proved why he is counted on for offense by his team and many times plays forward instead. He backhanded a shot just wide, but the rebound trickled to the right, where Niklas Kronwall successfully fended off Stafford to prevent an easy rebound goal.
Jonathan Ericsson scored his third goal of the season on a lucky shot that deflected off the stick of Jets blueliner Paul Postma and in.
The Wings completed the comeback late in the third period when Tatar was the recipient of a Tyler Myers giveaway. Tatar immediately fed the puck to Abdelkader who scored in the slot, similar to the play he made to Larkin just a period prior.
With just under ten seconds to play, Blake Wheeler fired a shot off the far goal post. Detroit narrowly avoided overtime but any kind of win is acceptable.
“We needed a game like that,” said Mrazek. “We knew after the first period we were down but the game is sixty minutes and we have forty minutes more to push hard. You could see in the second period we didn’t give them anything and we scored two goals.”
Detroit finished the contest with 35 shots (to Winnipeg’s 25).
The win earned a key two points, which moved the Wings (77 points) past the Pittsburgh Penguins (76) to the first wild card spot. However, the Penguins do have a game-in-hand.
Petr Mrazek rebounded with his first strong game since February 23. Since that win over Columbus, he has given up three goals, five goals, and was pulled his last start for allowing two goals on only five shots.
Dylan Larkin had a seven-game scoreless span dating back to February 21 (the beginning of the drought).
The two teams combined for 0-for-7 on the power play.
Detroit dominated the faceoff circle, winning 37 draws to 24.
A Look Ahead
The Wings continue their five games in eight days schedule with a pair of weekend games at home. The first will take place Saturday afternoon at 2:00 against the New York Rangers while the latter is a rare night contest on Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Henrik Lundqvist will return to action Saturday after missing a handful of games.