DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings had to be patient Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils, who are playing a style reminiscent of New Jersey teams of the past.
Darren Helm scored two goals to lead Detroit to a 3-1 win against New Jersey at Joe Louis Arena.
"It was a tight-checking game. We had seen the pre-scout of the two games before. They're back to playing like they used to years ago; five inside, real tight, and they get hard on you," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We had the puck a lot. Until you understand playing against them, you can't pass it, you've got to throw it in, get second chances. That's the way you're going to score against them.
"Helm's line had a big game. I thought that was [Johan Franzen's] best game in a long, long time, was very competitive. So that's positive. We didn't give up very much."
Henrik Zetterberg scored the game-winning goal for Detroit (20-9-9), and Jimmy Howard made 12 saves to earn the win.
"It was good. We all talked about it in the room here. We wanted to come out and have a better start than we had the last two games," Zetterberg said. "I think in the first we played really solid even though maybe we didn't have enough chances. They played really tight in front of their goalie. It was tough to get quality chances. But we stuck with it and eventually got some goals."
Joe Whitney scored for New Jersey (13-19-7), which was without eight regulars due to injury and illness. Cory Schneider made 25 saves.
"We had the game being played the way we wanted to play it," Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello said. "Unfortunately, we had to kill some penalties and we had to use two of our defensemen too much. We got tired."
Zetterberg broke a 1-1 tie with 5:01 left when he tipped Niklas Kronwall's point shot out of midair in the bottom area of the left circle. It was the Detroit captain's ninth goal; he leads the Red Wings with 33 points.
Helm scored his second goal of the game, seventh of the season, 24 seconds later on a breakaway. He beat Schneider while fighting off the checking of Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas.
"It's always nice to see that he gets credit for the hard work he puts in," Zetterberg said of Helm, who missed most of the previous two seasons because of various injuries. "It's not easy to be injured and go through rehabs and spending a lot of time working out. It's nice to see that he gets some goals and gets some points."
Whitney opened the scoring with his first NHL goal with 4:23 left in the second period. Playing in his third NHL game, second since being recalled from Albany of the American Hockey League on Monday, Whitney picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle after Tim Sestito forced a turnover and snapped a quick shot past Howard high on the glove side.
"[Sestito] made a great play on the turnover, then I just tried to get it off my stick as quick as possible," he said. " … It's hard to score goals at any level, so I'm pretty excited about it."
But Whitney couldn't revel in his milestone with his teammates as quickly as he wanted.
"I was looking for guys to celebrate with," he said. "I didn't know where anyone was."
Helm tied it 2:19 later with an outstanding individual effort. As he was falling to the ice on a wraparound attempt to Schneider's left, Helm put the puck in off the stick of Devils forward Steve Bernier, Schneider's pad and the inside of the post.
"I knew [Helm] was there, and he made a real nice play wrapping it in there," said Gustav Nyquist, who had passed the puck to Helm. "I think it was mostly [Helm's] job there. It was a nice goal for him, and it was a big goal for us tying us up going into the third."
It was Helm's first goal in 11 games and the 50th of his career.
New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky hit the goal post during a power play 4:10 into the second period.
Bernier was helped off the ice with 4:54 left in the third after going hard into the boards trying to make a hit. Lamoriello didn't say what Bernier injured, but he said he thought it was serious and that Bernier would be getting X-rays.