The Detroit Red Wings coach watched his team break a recent trend of starting slow at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night and it led to an impressive 5-2 win against Central Division leader and rival Nashville.
The Red Wings led 2-0 after the first period, kept a two-goal cushion with a goal by Pavel Datsyuk in the second and pushed the tempo again in the third with two more tallies.
Babcock still found room for improvement in a second period that saw Nashville cut it to 2-1, but he couldn't complain overall -- especially when it came to Datsyuk, who scored twice and added an assist to earn first-star honors.
"The start was real good," Babcock said. "The League's real simple. You get the puck going ahead, you're going to have it a lot and you're going to be on top of the other team. You turn it over, you're going to put it in your zone and wear out your (defense). Tonight, I thought we did a lot better job and you've got to give the guys credit."
Datsyuk's first goal, shot from the high slot, gave Detroit a 1-0 lead at 12:11 of the first period. His second came with just 1:18 left in the second to make it 3-1 and happened after he went strong to the net. It gave the Wings a much-needed boost heading to the third.
"Huge," Babcock said of the goal. "They were coming for sure. They had us in trouble. It was a great play. Pavel was really good. He wasn't just stick-handling to entertain the crowd. He took the puck to the net and made things happen."
Actually that entire top line of Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom are making things go on a nightly basis for the Wings (6-2-1). They're on a roll, producing scoring chances and points in bunches.
Datsyuk was asked how much fun he personally was having, and said the fun's being had by more than just him.
"This is not my fun," he said. "This is our team's fun and our line's fun together."
He then had a little fun with reporters, who informed him that Babcock talked about how much he enjoys seeing Datsyuk take the puck to the net.
"Yeah," Datsyuk said, smiling. "So far, I do it one time."
That one time, though, seemed to inspire other Wings to set their course for the net more often. That's where defenseman Brad Stuart picked up his first goal of the season to make it 2-0 with 1:36 left in the first period -- jamming a rebound past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
Holmstrom and Patrick Eaves also scored for Detroit, while Nicklas Lidstrom and Ruslan Salei each finished with 2 assists. Joel Ward and Kevin Klein scored for Nashville (5-2-3).
Chris Osgood started his second straight game for the Wings, making 23 saves and earning his 398th career win. Osgood started in place of Jimmy Howard again, as Howard sat out a second straight game with back spasms.
The 400-win mark for his career is getting tantalizingly close for the veteran Wings goalie.
"It's taken forever to try and get to 400, so I just try to play the games and not focus on that," Osgood said. "Sometimes it's hard to do, to be honest with you. You do think about it, but it's best not to when I'm playing. It's taken longer than I would have liked, but I'm just going to keep working and persevering."
Babcock said Howard will be re-evaluated this week to determine if he can play on Wednesday at Calgary. Unlike Osgood's previous start -- when he allowed three first-period goals in a 4-2 home loss to Phoenix -- he was sharp early on against Nashville.
It also helped that Detroit's defense, puck-possession game and strong power play led to the Wings' 12-8 first-period advantage in shots on goal.
The Wings also played their first game with forward Justin Abdelkader in the lineup. He took the place of the struggling Jiri Hudler and played on the third line with Dan Cleary and Mike Modano. Abdelkader, who hadn't played since injuring his ribs in a preseason game against Toronto, finished with four hits.
Rinne started and took the loss for the Predators, who began the game tied for first in the Central Division with Chicago at 13 points. After the Blackhawks' win at Minnesota Saturday night, they are in sole possession of first. Detroit's win bumped the Wings to 13 points and also moved them out of last place in a tight early-season division race. All five Central teams played on Saturday.
As for Nashville, which has now dropped two in a row, Rinne said the Predators hurt themselves by not scoring early.
"We had a pretty good start of the game, the first ten minutes," he said. "After that they came hard. They had some chances. We had some penalties. That kind of changed the momentum."
1 - 0 DET
2 - 0 DET
2 - 1 DET
3 - 1 DET
4 - 1 DET
5 - 1 DET