DETROIT – It didn't matter what team was on the other bench or that another skilled goalie was at the other end of the rink.
It didn't matter that they'd scored just six goals in their previous six games or that by going 0-5-1 in those contests after a 5-0 start, they'd done something no other NHL team had ever done before.
A low shooting percentage, magnified mistakes, stars struggling to score goals … none of it mattered for the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena. All that mattered was making sure their winless skid didn't reach seven games -- which the Wings did with a dominating 5-0 victory against the Anaheim Ducks.
They scored almost as many goals in one game as they had in the last two weeks and made it seem like watching somebody lost in the desert find a hidden pool of fresh water.
"It's only one game, but it was a big game for us," said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who finished with two goals, one assist and a plus-3 rating. "I thought we were relentless on the puck, we were spending a lot of time in their zone and we were tiring their (defense) out by doing that, too. We just stuck with it. We just kept on working and finally got rewarded with some goals."
That might be the understatement of the young season.
The Red Wings (6-5-1) did stick with their effort, but it was more impressive than that description. At points in the third period, already leading by four goals, they made it look like a feeding frenzy against Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller and his eventual replacement, Dan Ellis.
Johan Franzen added one goal and a pair of assists for Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall each scored and Jimmy Howard pitched a shutout in goal (22 saves) for the win. The rest of the Red Wings were just as dominant, pouring on shots and not letting up.
Hiller was mercifully pulled following Franzen's goal with just under 10 minutes left, but the Wings continued to press – winding up with a season-high 50 shots on goal, led by Franzen's six. It didn't really matter that Anaheim looked sluggish while finishing up an ugly seven-game road trip with a 1-3-3 mark.
"As soon as you get one or two goals, everyone loosens up a little bit," said Franzen, who didn't have a single point during the Wings' six-game skid. "Maybe after the second goal (by Zetterberg) it felt like everyone got a little more relaxed. But it was only one game, so we've got to focus real hard on the next one."
That will happen on Tuesday at home against the Colorado Avalanche and should be another good test for the Wings – who avoided an unthinkable seven-game winless skid. The last time Detroit had a seven-game winless stretch was during the 1990-91 season, the year before the now 41-year-old Lidstrom joined the team.
That would have been quite a weight to bear, not to mention how much deeper it would've made the early hole they've dug in the Western Conference standings.
"We needed a win badly," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "To tell you the truth, I would've taken playing poorly and winning – because we've played a lot of good games and not won. We just needed to win and it was nice to see some guys score some goals, so you can get the weight of the world off your back."
They didn't just remove that weight. First they body-slammed it and then they stomped on it.
Detroit's play was reminiscent of the way the Wings started this season -- back when lots of people wondered if they'd ever lose. They even caught a couple of fortunate breaks in the second that simply hadn't been going their way recently.
A loose puck that Howard didn't see just missed sliding inside the right post, and then a goal by Luca Sbisa was waved off after officials ruled that Corey Perry made incidental contact with Howard in the crease. Perry, clearly frustrated, chirped at Howard afterward.
"He was just yelling at me for no reason," Howard said. "He runs me over and then he's yelling at me. I guess he was pretty fired up."
Howard was, too. He's been strong throughout the struggles and finally got the "run support" Babcock talked about in comparing the Wings' slide to a baseball team with great pitching and poor hitting.
"I knew (we) were going to play well tonight, especially after (Friday's) practice," Howard said. "They were really skating and passing the puck well and shooting it. I thought it was our best practice we've had in a long time and it translated into tonight."
That was evident right away. After outshooting the Ducks 6-0 right off the bat, the Wings finally got one past Hiller on their 10th shot of the game off a blast by Kronwall – his second goal of the season.
Hiller was good enough to keep it 1-0 after one period, despite Detroit's 18-7 shot advantage, but the Wings really dominated in the second. In that period they outshot Anaheim 18-6 and scored twice – once when Zetterberg fired one in through traffic at 1:55 and again 50 seconds later when Lidstrom got his first of the game.
Lidstrom's second pushed it to 4-0 early in the third, after an unsportsmanlike penalty and 10-minute misconduct called on Ducks star Teemu Selanne. Lidstrom scored his fifth goal of the season just 37 seconds into the ensuing power play and it set off Selanne – who was then assessed a game misconduct after he got out of the box.
Franzen's fifth of the season came next to make it 5-0 and chase Hiller. The end of the game was also the merciful end to a mind-numbing road trip for Anaheim, which now finds itself in a five-game winless streak of its own.
"We knew (the Red Wings) played decent against Calgary," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "They just didn't score. We reviewed what the chances were and how they played. We just didn't have any pushback tonight."
The good news for Anaheim is that 12 of its next 14 games are at home, but Carlyle wasn’t ready to let that make this loss any more tolerable.
“We’re not going to accept just wanting to get home,” he said. “You’ve got to play on road trips and you’ve got to play in the NHL and you’ve got to win on the road and be competitive on the road – and tonight we were none of those.”