A few more performances like the one they gave Friday night and the Detroit Red Wings shouldn't have to worry about making the playoffs.
The Wings looked like their old, dominant selves on Friday night as Darren Helm scored twice and Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators. Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg also scored, and Jimmy Howard made 20 saves to help the eighth-place Red Wings move within three points of seventh-place Nashville and stay a point ahead of ninth-place Calgary.
"I think it's a learning experience for the whole team," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of being in a playoff battle -- an unusual feeling for a franchise that usually has its postseason ticket punched by now. "We're batting as a team. I think it showed tonight -- we're battling for points and wins to move up in the standings."
The Wings looked nothing like the team that was whipped soundly in a 6-3 home loss to Vancouver on Wednesday night -- and much more like the one that has been among the NHL's elite for the past decade-plus.
"I thought we came out as a very determined team," said Helm, who now has 10 goals. "The other game, against Vancouver, we just sat back and didn't do what we needed to do."
Added coach Mike Babcock: "I thought we were ready to play."
The Predators, who beat Los Angeles 4-2 at home on Thursday, weren't. They trailed 4-0 before J.P. Dumont and Joel Ward scored. Dan Ellis stopped 27 shots.
"We got down too early," Ward said. "Too much, too early."
Datsyuk opened the scoring at 7:44 with his 18th goal. The NHL leader in takeaways stole the puck from Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein in front of the net, made a couple of moves and put a backhander under the crossbar.
"We gave them two free goals," Predators' coach Barry Trotz said. "The first goal and the fourth goal. Bad turnovers, bad mistakes."
Tomas Holmstrom made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at the 14-minute mark, taking a feed from by Lidstrom and tapping it into an empty net for his 17th goal. The assist was the 800th of Lidstrom's career; he's only the fourth Red Wing to reach that milestone.
Helm made it 3-0 when he beat Ellis with a wrist shot from the inside edge of the left circle at 3:35 of the second period and added a shorthanded goal at 9:10 off his own rebound.
The play started at the Detroit blue line when Niklas Kronwall poked the puck away from Steve Sullivan and passed to Helm who headed down the left wing. Ellis stopped his first shot but the rebound bounced over the stick of Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter and onto the stick of Helm, who backhanded the puck into the open net with Ellis out of position.
"The puck was bouncing," Helm said. "I would have usually turned back on a penalty kill. But the puck was bouncing and it bounced over his stick and I'm by myself with an empty net."
Dumont put Nashville on the board 1:44 later, converting a cross-slot pass from the bottom of the left circle for his 13th goal.
"They had a few lucky bounces," Dumont said. "Good for them, bad for us."
Ward made it 4-2, at 3:15 of third period on a one-timer from the slot for his 13th goal. But the Predators couldn't get anything else past Howard, and Zetterberg added an empty-netter.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report