DALLAS -- When the Detroit Red Wings needed him the most, captain Henrik Zetterberg stepped up, delivering two goals and an assist as Detroit clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 22nd straight season with a 3-0 blanking of the Dallas Stars before a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center on Saturday.
Jimmy Howard also stopped all 17 shots he faced to earn his fifth shutout of the season.
Zetterberg's first goal came at 18:17 of the first, when a backhand pass deflected off the left skate of Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski before landing in the back of the net.
The Detroit captain then added a second tally, his 11th of the season, at 1:57 of the third with the Red Wings shorthanded, as Zetterberg beat Dallas goaltender Richard Bachman with a 14-foot backhand through the five-hole.
"Of course, it's nice to make the postseason again," Zetterberg said. "Had a pretty good week, had to win some games and I'm glad to see that we can play the hockey we did."
"This is why he's captain," Wings center Pavel Datsyuk said of Zetterberg. "He just played had the whole season and when we needed it, he stepped up and pulled the team."
Detroit then made it 3-0 at 6:30 of the final period when Jonathan Ericsson netted his third of the season, beating Bachman with a wrist shot that came while the Dallas backup netminder was screened by Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.
Datsyuk assisted on all three Detroit goals.
"Obviously, I'm proud of the guys," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought as an organization, we did a real good job of rebuilding our D here on the fly. We had great growth on the back end and getting [Danny] DeKeyser to come made a huge difference on our team and got phenomenal leadership from [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Henrik] Zetterberg, [Johan] Franzen, [Niklas] Kronwall, [Jimmy] Howard, [Daniel] Cleary – those guys, just the big three up front, they played so well and scored so much for us."
With Saturday's win -- Detroit's fourth straight victory -- the Red Wings earned the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and will face the No. 2 Anaheim Ducks in the opening round of the playoffs. The Red Wings last missed the playoffs in 1989-90.
"They're a big, strong, physical team," Howard said of the Ducks. "They like to get in on the forecheck. For us, I think it's getting through the neutral zone, getting on top of their D and making them come the full length of the ice and making them turn the puck over."
Dallas, who finished on a five-game losing streak for a second consecutive year, will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season and also saw a 15-year streak of winning seasons snapped with Saturday's defeat.
"The guys did a hell of a job battling hard [over these last five games] and I thought we battled hard tonight too to finish it off," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "That [Detroit] is a good hockey club."
Following a penalty-free first period, Dallas center Jamie Benn drew the first penalty of the night at 9:44 of the second when Niklas Kronwall held the 2012 All-Star behind the Stars' goal. However, that power play would last just 16 seconds as Erik Cole was called for interference after taking down Smith in the left faceoff circle at 10:10.
Bachman stopped 34 of 37 shots he faced for Dallas.
Gulutzan also commented on the possible replacement of general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, a move reported earlier on Saturday.
"Well, all I can say is that Joe's been tremendous for me. I think he's done a hell of a job," Gulutzan said. "You can see our farm team and the young guys that we have here, whatever happens with that, he's the guy that hired me and a guy that I'm close to. He's taught me a lot."