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Datsyuk, Wings dethrone Kings 4-1

by Curtis Zupke
LOS ANGELES – There was no music blaring in the Detroit Red Wings' locker room Saturday night. There were no shouts of catharsis or even a smile.

Detroit remains tightly calibrated through its ups and downs, and it didn't blink when it gave up a shorthanded goal early against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Red Wings (10-7-1) responded with Pavel Datsyuk's slump-busting power-play goal and scored the next three for a 4-1 victory to finally end one of the worst road stretches in club history. With the loss, Pacific-leading Los Angeles (10-7-3) ended a three-game win streak.

Datsyuk scored twice and Niklas Kronwall added a power play goal as Detroit avoided its first six-game road losing streak since 1987. The Wings bent early, but they didn't break.

"I thought it was important to get that goal right away after they scored shorthanded," Nicklas Lidstrom said. "I thought we played real solid after that, too. We didn't let that bother us when they got that shorthanded goal. We stuck to our game plan, and we did toward the end, too."

Detroit was coming off a 5-2 loss to San Jose in which goalie Jimmy Howard was pulled. Coach Mike Babcock stuck with Howard and watched him make 23 saves, including a penalty shot in the second period, for his ninth victory.

Howard also thwarted Dustin Brown out in front with eight minutes remaining and held ground during a Kings two-man advantage in the final minutes.

After a strange start to the season in which it started 5-0, then went 0-5-1 and 4-0 before dropping their previous two, Detroit might have found traction.

"The story of our year is that we've played a lot of good hockey and we've found ways to make enough mistakes that we haven't been able to win enough," Babcock said.

"You can't continually get 38 shots a game and give up 22 or 24 and not win. Eventually it's going to happen for you … We had the power play going early on and that really got us going. We stuck with our game plan for 60 minutes tonight."

Datsyuk snapped a 12-game goal scoring drought to tie it at one in the first, just 37 seconds after Mike Richards' second shorthanded goal in as many games.

Johan Franzen made a lunging play to get the puck to Lidstrom off the boards. Lidstom ripped a slap shot that hit Holmstrom, and Datsyuk backhanded the rebound into the net at 7:14.

"I think that was huge," Howard said. "Nobody got frustrated. We went right back down and scored and that really energized our bench."

Detroit took control in the second period and came out with a 3-1 lead through Kronwall's goal as well as Justin Abdelkader's strike just after a Red Wings penalty expired.

Abdelkader started a rush when he poked the puck past Rob Scuderi on the left side and rookie defenseman Brendan Smith came out of the penalty box to form a 2-on-1. Abdelkader wristed it past Jonathan Quick at 15:38.

Kronwall got open in the slot between four Kings and finished off a nifty feed from Holmstrom at 7:08. Franzen dug the puck out of the corner and got it to Holmstrom behind the goal line.

The Kings missed an opportunity to tie it at two when Anze Kopitar was awarded a penalty shot after Brad Stuart disrupted him on a breakaway on a play about which Babcock said, to him, "wasn't even a penalty," Babcock said.

Kopitar's low backhand found Howard's glove.

"I stayed patient with him," Howard said. "You know he's a talented player. I figured he was going to make a move and I just went out, followed him back, stayed patient and was able to make a glove save."

Datsyuk finished off the scoring when he grabbed a loose puck in the right circle with his backhand, moved it to his forehand for a snapped blast past Quick with 4:54 remaining.

The Red Wings have not gotten the expected production from Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but Datsyuk might have found a starting point.

"It was great to see him get it," Lidstrom said. "He's had a lot of chances but the puck hasn't gone in for him."

Datsyuk's second goal also exposed the Kings' noticeable lack of zip. Los Angeles was credited with 14 giveaways and only one takeaway.

L.A. was held to two or fewer goals for the 13th time this season.

"They capitalized on turnovers and we didn't," defenseman Matt Greene said. "When you play these guys there are shifts when you're in your zone for a little while, but tonight it was way too much. We turned pucks over and played right into their game."

The Kings' main highlight was a terrific play by Richards off a Detroit faceoff win in L.A.'s end. The puck went between Detroit's point men, and Richards raced down center ice and beat Jiri Hudler to the puck just inside Detroit's blue line. Richards put himself between Hudler and the puck and nudged a backhand past Howard for a 1-0 lead at 6:37.

Brown and Drew Doughty hit posts in a 10-second span shortly after, but the Kings could muster little more the rest of the way.

Quick, who made his 11th start in 12 games, admitted Detroit was more motivated.

"They got beat up pretty good by San Jose," Quick said. "A team like that, they want to get over that game and come out and play a good game the next time out, and they sure did that against us tonight. We didn't play our best, and we have to figure out what we did wrong."

Richards had a shorthanded empty net goal on Thursday against Anaheim. It was the first time a Kings player has recorded shorthanded goals in consecutive games since Ziggy Palffy on March 29, 2001.

Smith recorded his first NHL point in his second game.

Said Babcock: "He's an NHL player."
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