They also gave him reason for pause.
“I thought we got back to being what we’ve been sometimes this year which is unacceptable and un-Red Wing like,” Babcock said. “We’ve got to learn to play and play consistently and do it each and every night. Some nights, you’re not going to win, you do good things, but you give yourself a chance. I thought we had two good periods and one tough one.”
The win was the Red Wings' (8-4-2) second consecutive to start a five-game trip away from Joe Louis Arena. The Flames (5-6-2) dropped their final game in Calgary before a four-game road trip.
“It’s huge,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 19 saves. “It doesn’t matter what the score is as long as you get the two points on the road. You take the two points and you run with them.”
A lucky goal swung momentum in Detroit’s favor early in the third.
After letting a 2-0 lead slip away in the second period, Tatar put the Red Wings back up just 1:25 into the third. Joakim Andersson fired a shot on Flames goalie Joey MacDonald from below the goal line, glancing it off Tatar's skate and finding a hole to give Detroit a 3-2 lead early in the period.
“He said he didn’t touch it,” Andersson said. “It was a lucky bounce. Sometimes you need those lucky bounces to win games. It was nice to get it.”
“Goalie makes a mistake, it goes in the net,” MacDonald, who once played for Detroit, said. “Guys make lots of mistakes on the ice, but once we make one, everybody knows. It's one of those things. I've got to stop it, but 99 times out of 100 you stop them.”
MacDonald bailed out forward Curtis Glencross at 9:20 to keep the Flames close. Shorthanded, Glencross turned the puck over on a clearing attempt, leaving MacDonald to make a pad save off Daniel Cleary. MacDonald continued to keep Calgary in the game, denying Cleary with a glove save with 6:10 remaining.
But with 3:24 remaining, MacDonald couldn't stop Abdelkader, who worked his way out from behind the Flames net and fired another sharp-angled shot by MacDonald to give the Red Wings a 4-2 lead.
The goal became a game-winner after Glencross extracted a little redemption with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game in scoring his fourth goal.
It wasn't all good news for the Red Wings in the final period though. Johan Franzen, who missed Detroit's 2-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, left the game after just one shift in the third.
“He was sick,” Babcock said. “I don’t know exactly if he’s got the flu. I don’t know what it is, but he’s sick and he left. He was feeling nauseous and couldn’t play.”
It didn't take long for the Red Wings to start rolling in the first period despite being heavily outshot by the Flames.
Though the Flames were able to keep stars Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel off the scoresheet in back-to-back games earlier in the week, the Red Wings’ duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg ensured early that they wouldn't be shut down.
Datsyuk opened the scoring for Detroit, tapping a Jakub Kindl rebound behind MacDonald for his sixth of the season at 10:57 of the first period. He added an assist when Zetterberg scored his seventh goal of the season with 2:45 remaining in the period. Parked just off the far post, Zetterberg converted a cross-crease pass from Todd Bertuzzi to give Detroit the 2-0 lead.
The Flames rebounded in the middle period though.
“We were not pleased with our first period,” coach Bob Hartley said. “I felt that the guys regrouped very well in the locker room. I came in and they were already talking between themselves. … I knew that we would get a good second period, and we did.”
Just 54 seconds into the second, Mike Cammalleri was sprung on a breakaway, but was denied by Howard's pad. Three minutes later, Glencross picked up a Brendan Smith turnover in the slot, but the Red Wings goaltender again was equal to the task.
Hartley’s Flames took just 2:32 to erase Detroit's two-goal lead.
Calgary finally broke through Howard at 10:15 of the second. Chris Butler's blast from the high slot deflected off the stick of Andersson and jumped by Howard to cut Detroit's lead to 2-1.
With the 250th assist of his career, Cammalleri helped pull Calgary even at 12:47.
Cammalleri plucked a dump in off the boards, spun and fed Sean Monahan cutting to the net. The Flames' rookie rifled a shot over the glove of Howard to record his seventh goal of the season, prompting Detroit coach Mike Babcock to call a time-out to calm his troops.
“We didn’t execute and we turned over way too many pucks in the second period,” Babcock said. “When you do that, they look fast and you look slow. I think after they scored their second goal, we really turned things around and got playing again. I thought we finished the second strong and then had a real good third period.”