The 41-year old Red Wings captain made his comeback from a career high 11-game injury absence because of a badly bruised ankle on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, but it was his team's remarkable comeback that was most impressive.
Detroit stormed back from a three-goal deficit late in the second period to beat the visiting Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 and end Wings' losing streak one short of seven games. If it had reached seven, it would've been the first time the Wings had dropped that many in a row since 1990 -- the year before Lidstrom came over from Sweden as a rookie.
"We're happy with the win; that's for sure," said Lidstrom, who finished with an assist, four shots on goal and two blocked shots. "The team hasn't played all that well and just looking at the standings the way we see it every day, teams are catching up. You want to continue to get the points, so it's been important to kind of break the [losing] trend and get the two points now."
The Red Wings (45-25-5, 95 points) have seven games left in the regular season and remain just one point ahead of the Nashville Predators (94 points) in the Central Division and Western Conference standings. They're also only three ahead of the surging Chicago Blackhawks (92 points) in both of those standings.
It was almost a more bleak picture for the guys in red, however.
Carolina built a 4-1 lead late in the second period after scoring unanswered early goals in the first and second periods to make it 2-0 before countering the first of Henrik Zetterberg's two goals with a pair of power-play markers by Jamie McBain and Jiri Tlusty (two goals).
Those markers were separated by just 17 seconds and Carolina took what seemed to be a commanding 4-1 lead. Afterward, however, the Hurricanes (30-31-15) were overwhelmed by a massive Detroit offensive response that not only pushed the Wings to the win but elevated their shot total to 50 for the game -- which tied a season-high mark set on Nov.5 against Anaheim.
"They were all over us," said Fraser, Mich. native and Carolina forward Chad LaRose, whose goal to start the second gave the 'Canes a 2-0 lead. "We left our goaltender (Cam Ward) out to dry quite a bit. It could've been 10-4 if it wasn't for him. We've all got to look at ourselves in the mirror and play better."
The loss was the second in a row for the Hurricanes, who also lost 5-1 on Friday night in Columbus and didn't gain a single point this weekend in a fading push to make the Eastern Conference playoff field. Carolina came into the game in 11th and seven points behind the eighth-place Washington Capitals.
"They were playing well the whole game," LaRose said of the Red Wings. "They made us earn our goals and come 200 feet, knowing that we played last night. Still, we've got to close that out. They played well, but we've got to stay on our game and stay strong for all 60 (minutes)."
That's exactly how Detroit managed to come back. Instead of wilting, the Wings rode an impressive offensive night by their top line of Valtteri Filppula (three assists, plus-3), Henrik Zetterberg (2 goals, plus-3) and Jiri Hudler (one goal, two assists, plus-3) to an impressive and unlikely win.
"I think the three of them today were fantastic," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought (Zetterberg) was dominant (and) skated great. Same with Fil and Huds. (They) made so many complementary plays. They were our best line for sure.''
That really showed over the last two periods, but especially after Tlusty scored the second of his two goals on a power play for Carolina's three-goal lead. Zetterberg soon potted the second of his goals with just 3:02 left in the second to make it 4-2 and Todd Bertuzzi pulled the Red Wings within 4-3 just 18 seconds later with a goal he swatted past Ward (45 saves) after Gustav Nyquist tipped Lidstrom's point shot into the air.
Hudler's goal, which he scored 8:10 into the third when Brad Stuart's shot deflected off his leg, made it 4-4 before Drew Miller's 14th goal and first in six games gave Detroit its first lead just 3:25 later.
Despite a fevered push by Carolina over the last couple minutes of the game, Miller's goal stood up as the eventual game-winner. It also pushed Detroit's regular-season home record against the Hurricanes to 15-0-1 dating back to Carolina/Hartford's last victory here, a 3-0 win as the Whalers on Nov. 14, 1989.
"It's too late in the season and we’re in too big of a hole to (pack it in)," said Miller, who roofed a backhand from the low slot past Ward. "You can’t give up. You have to continue to play and we knew that they played last night. We knew they would be tired and we had to keep playing our game, so it paid off."
Ty Conklin (20 saves) picked up the win despite a somewhat shaky start, but he also didn't have much of a chance to stop a couple of the goals allowed. He got better after Tlusty's second goal, which came off a tip of a beautiful feed from Jeff Skinner to cap back-to-back Hurricanes power-play markers, and held the Hurricanes off until his offense got to Ward.
"The numbers don't really indicate how I felt," Conklin said. "They weren't bad goals. Third one was a good shot (by McBain). It was a 5-on-3. It was a game we deserved to win, the way we played. We were playing well, carrying the play. They were opportunistic, but this team will score its goals ... especially when we get going like that."
Prior to the game, the crowd roared when Lidstrom's name was announced as one of Detroit's starters, which could've given the Red Wings a nice push. Instead, Carolina got the puck off the opening faceoff and made sure the excitement level was short-lived thanks to Tlusty's first goal 17 seconds into the game.
Detroit then controlled most of the action in the first, but Ward was sharp and the Red Wings didn't get much luck. They put 16 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes and missed the net on 10 more to remain down by a goal as the second started. The second, however, was filled with action and three goals by each team, which set up Detroit's dominating third.
"We had the feeling we could get back in this game just kind of going after them the way we did and creating chances and taking the shots," Lidstrom said. "We had a lot of shots out there tonight and the pucks started going in for us."
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