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Helm leads Wings past Leafs

by Neil Acharya /
DETROIT -- Darren Helm's speed and skill was on full display for the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

Helm was indeed a spark plug as he played a role in Detroit's first three goals -- including the eventual game winner by Patrick Eaves -- as the Wings skated away with a 4-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

The Wings' power play was clicking on all cylinders as it went 3-for-4 on the night.

Detroit opened the scoring just over midway through the first, when Helm picked up the loose puck along the boards just over center Ice and went hard to the to the net, blowing past John-Michael Liles. Helm's shot from in close was stopped by James Reimer, but Justin Abdelkader got to the loose puck by out positioning Jake Gardiner to put home the rebound for his first goal of the preseason.

Helm's quickness factored in again on his wraparound tally on the power play, which gave Detroit a 2-0 lead.

"I got the chance to play on the power play for the first time in a long, long time tonight and it was good that our group made well on our chances," Helm said. "Using my speed is a big part of my success. Millsy (Drew Miller) made a great play up the wall and I was able to use my speed down the wing get a shot on net. I saw Abdelkader coming down he was able to bang it in. On the second one, I saw Reimer out of his net a little bit and I was able to take a couple of quick steps and wrap it around."

Wings coach Mike Babcock was impressed with the play of his squad, especially the speedy Helm.

"He was the best player on the ice," Babcock said. "He brought energy, he brought skill … he was good on the power play, good on the penalty kill. The growth of our team is going to come from those guys -- the Abdelkader's, the Helm's.  (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Nicklas) Lidstrom are what they are. These other guys got to continually evolve, and I thought Helm was great tonight." 

The Leafs cut the deficit in half in the dying minutes of the first. With Garnet Exelby in the penalty box, Liles blasted a shot past Wings goalie Ty Conklin. Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin assisted on the goal.

Grabovski was later hit by a puck and did not return.

"We just didn't seem to have any legs, especially when Grabo went down," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We were getting our way back into the game, but at that point it didn't look good, after he went down.

"The plan was to keep some lines together, but that didn't work out due to some minor little injuries. We had to move some things around, so practice this week will be important."

The Wings' power play struck again at the halfway point of the middle period, as rookie Tomas Tatar netted his first of the preseason from the lip of the crease, where he was spotted by Patrick Eaves. Nicklas Kronwall got his second assist of the night on the play.

Conklin was solid when tested throughout the evening, as he stopped 20 of 22 shots including a couple of dazzling saves ones in the third, the first off of the stick of Phil Kessel early in the third and then again on Mike Komisarek, who charged in from the point with just over 7 minutes remaining.

"I thought we have played pretty well for the most part during the preseason," Liles said. "Obviously tonight, we didn't have our best game, our strongest effort, but thankfully it's not a game that counts for points. We will regroup, get back to practice on Monday and get ready for Thursday (against Montreal)."

The loss concluded the Leafs' preseason, as they finished with a record of 4-4. Meanwhile, the Wings will play their third straight contest on Sunday against Pittsburgh at Joe Louis Arena.

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