Officially back in the playoff picture, that is.
Nicklas Lidstrom's power-play goal with 9:03 remaining in the third period broke a tie Monday night and gave the Red Wings a much-needed 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in a fast-paced game before an energized sellout crowd of 18,007 at the Pepsi Center.
The victory gives the defending Western Conference champions 70 points and moves them from 10th place to eighth, one point ahead of Calgary with 20 regular-season games to play.
"We talked about it today, that we have to make a decision as to whether we want to get in," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after accepting congratulations for leading Team Canada to Olympic gold in the just-completed Vancouver Games.
"We've got enough bodies now and with our lineup we should be a good hockey club. You can't win one, lose one. We have the ability and now we have to dig in and find a way and the determination to get it done."
Ravaged by injuries to key players since the season's start, the Red Wings are healthy now and believe they are in position to make a serious playoff push.
"I think it gives the whole team a spark when you have guys that have been out a long time," Lidstrom said. "(Johan) Franzen missed four months and (Andreas Lilja) has been out for about a year. They gave us a spark and we need everything that can help us right now. I thought we really played with some desperation in the third period. Earlier in the season we could have lost a game like tonight."
Lidstrom's goal, which came off a drop pass from Pavel Datsyuk, came less than a minute after Avalanche defenseman Kyle Quincey tripped Valtteri Filppula behind the Colorado net, a penalty that didn't sit well with Avalanche coach Joe Sacco.
"It was 2-2 with 10 minutes to go in the third period and we take a bad penalty," Sacco said. "Their power play was very good tonight and they took advantage of it. We can't take a penalty at that time."
Lidstrom's goal was his seventh of the season and first on the road.
"Good timing," he said. "It was nice to get one, especially in a game like this."
Tomas Holmstrom, who picked up an assist on the play, had a busy night. He collected a first-period goal, a season-high three points and two minor penalties.
Holmstrom made life difficult for Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, parking in front throughout to set up screens, but he also came a little too close at 6:28 of the second period and cost the Red Wings a power-play goal and a 3-0 lead when referee Kerry Fraser disallowed the apparent score.
"Homer was in the paint and Kerry Fraser said that he didn't allow the goalie to play," Babcock said. "That's the rule; you have to be outside the paint. He's a veteran ref and he makes good decisions."
The Avalanche responded with goals from rookie T.J. Galiardi and Chris Stewart, who scored 2:45 apart to tie the game 2-2.
Galiardi banged the rebound of Paul Stastny's close-range shot behind goalie Jimmy Howard at 8:29. Stewart reached the 20-goal mark with a shot from below the left faceoff dot that skimmed between Howard's pads at 11:14.
The Red Wings skated circles around the Avalanche in the first period and grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Holmstrom and Franzen.
Holmstrom opened the scoring at 6:06. He accepted a pass from Datsyuk while skating down the slot before flipping a high shot that beat Anderson to the stick side.
"I think it gives the whole team a spark when you have guys that have been out a long time. (Johan) Franzen missed four months and (Andreas Lilja) has been out for about a year. They gave us a spark and we need everything that can help us right now. I thought we really played with some desperation in the third period. Earlier in the season we could have lost a game like tonight." -- Nicklas LidstromFranzen, playing in his seventh game after missing the first 55 to recover from major knee surgery, connected for a power-play goal at 12:40.
"We played a team tonight that was very desperate for points," Sacco said. "You have to give them credit. They played hard and they played well. After we got down 2-0, we played right with them. But you can't give it to them like that, power plays. They have a lot of skill out there and they can hurt you."
The Avalanche, who had won five consecutive home games, remain in sixth place in the West. Colorado and Northwest Division-leading Vancouver each have 76 points, but the Canucks have two more wins (37-35) and have played one fewer game.
"We came out slow," Stastny said. "We knew they were going to come out hard. I think this was the first time they've had almost their full roster healthy. A lot of the year they were missing some of their key players.
"Any time you go down 2-0 to Detroit, they're always a dangerous team and they can beat any team in the League. You can't fall behind them 2-0 because it's too hard to come back on them."
Howard, making his ninth consecutive start, had a relatively easy time in goal and finished with 22 saves.
"We know there's not much time left and we need to make a (playoff) push," he said. "We feel all we have to do is get in the playoffs and we'll be a dangerous team that nobody wants to face. The (Olympic) break couldn't have come at a better time for us. It allowed guys to get a rest and for the first time in six or seven months we finally have a full team."