DETROIT -- Mike Babcock said Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena that his Detroit Red Wings couldn't get into a scoring race with the Anaheim Ducks.
The Red Wings might've understood it, but it didn't stop the Ducks from cruising to a 5-2 victory and nearly winning that race to five goals in the first period alone. The Red Wings (15-12-9) struggled to keep up with the Ducks (24-7-5) while hampered by injuries to eight lineup regulars, including captain Henrik Zetterberg, goalie Jimmy Howard and six of their top nine forwards.
Anaheim has won six straight games.
"We took advantage of a team that was hurting," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Listen, we beat Detroit 5-2 in the first game we played them last year, too. How'd it end up? It's just ... that was no way the Detroit Red Wings that you're going to see in January."
It might be the Ducks team that people see next month. They keep stacking wins and collecting points to maintain a lead in the Pacific Division with 53 points. They also have a habit of brushing off adversity in games.
Red Wings rookie Tomas Jurco scored the first goal of his NHL career for a 1-0 lead 3:15 into the game, but Anaheim stormed back with four unanswered goals to take a commanding 4-1 lead into the second.
Jakob Silfverberg, playing for the first time following a 24-game injury absence, got the Ducks even 25 seconds after Jurco's goal and that opened the floodgates. Nick Bonino made it 2-1 at 5:29, Corey Perry upped it to 3-1 at 18:16 with his 22nd goal and Sami Vatanen made it 4-1 by launching a hard slapper that crossed the goal line with 1.2 seconds left on the clock.
Detroit, playing with three rookies and a lineup full of replacements, never recovered.
"I thought we started off pretty good and then everything just fell apart," said Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who was minus-2. "There’s no excuse whatsoever. Injuries [have] got nothing to do with it. We’re a better team than we showed tonight. That was embarrassing at times."
Vatanen and Saku Koivu finished with a goal and assist each, Andrew Cogliano logged three assists and Jonas Hiller (16 saves) earned the win. The Ducks outshot Detroit 30-18 in a building where that rarely occurs.
"I liked how we started," Babcock said. "Things were going pretty good for about three minutes. Obviously, it didn't go very well for us. They shot the puck in the net and we lost momentum very fast and didn't have a very good effort from that point on."
Anaheim did get a scare when center Ryan Getzlaf left the game with a facial injury at 14:20 of the first. A hit by Kyle Quincey in the offensive zone threw Getzlaf into the boards face-first and he left holding a towel over his mouth.
Getzlaf needed stitches to close a cut at the corner of his mouth and missed the rest of the period. He also sat out the first 6:55 of the second, but didn't lose any teeth and finished the game. Quincey was assessed a boarding major and game misconduct.
"I was kind of trying to stop and hit the puck, and he made a play with his stick horizontal to the back, which is obviously what you don't do in this League right now," said Getzlaf, who had recorded a point in the previous 14 games he played. "That's what caused it to be so dangerous."
He didn't place all of the blame on Quincey.
"I watched it after and I was in a tough position," Getzlaf said. "I've got to take some of the responsibility in putting myself there. I don't think he needed to cross-check me in that kind of a position, and obviously I went into the boards pretty hard. That's why it ended up the way it did."
The Ducks lost the ensuing man-advantage when Dustin Penner was called for high-sticking 3:25 into it, but Perry scored during 4-on-4 play with Mikael Samuelsson still serving Quincey's penalty.
Perry's goal, a wrist shot to the far side from inside the right dot, chased Detroit starting goalie Jonas Gustavsson (eight saves). Rookie Petr Mrazek (17 saves) relieved him and allowed Vatanen's goal, a last-second slapper.
Vatanen's shot came from the top of the right circle after a drop pass by Cogliano, who then picked up his third assist of the night on Koivu's goal at 12:26 of the second, which made it 5-1. Cogliano's shot led to a loose puck in the right circle that Koivu backhanded past Mrazek, who couldn't glove the fluttering puck after it nicked the inside of Brendan Smith's left skate.
Daniel Cleary scored his third goal with 1:58 left in the third for the final margin, coming much too late to salvage a miserable night for the Red Wings. Detroit has lost three straight, is winless in its past six games and fell to 5-9-6 on home ice.
"At times we were all over the place and nowhere," Kronwall said. "We were at times running around like a chicken with our heads cut off. It's not good enough. Enough talking, it's time to actually go out there and do something about it."