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Nyquist, Howard lead Red Wings past Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Thanks to more offensive production from Gustav Nyquist and some timely goaltending by Jimmy Howard, the Detroit Red Wings continued their recent surge.

Nyquist scored his ninth goal in nine games to break a 1-1 tie in the second period and Howard made 23 saves, 16 of them in the third period, in a 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at BB&T Center.

The Red Wings are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games.

"We're gaining some confidence here and putting a good stretch together," said forward Daniel Alfredsson, who tied the game in the second period with a power-play goal. "We need one good effort here before the break to put ourselves in a better situation. I think we should be happy with what we've done here the last few weeks."

The Red Wings snapped a four-game road losing streak; they won away from Joe Louis Arena for the first time since beating the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 11.

Howard , who came off the bench Monday after the first period in a 2-0 victory against the Vancouver Canucks, made his biggest save with 3:40 left in regulation when he made a pad stop on Sean Bergenheim's breakaway, preserving a 2-1 lead.

"I just tried to be patient," Howard said. "I know he's a shooter. So I just tried to take everything away."

Brian Lashoff scored an empty-net goal with 19.1 seconds left.

Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup after missing 14 games because of a lower-body injury but was held off the scoresheet. He got 13:34 of ice time and had one shot on goal. He also played left wing instead of his normal spot at center, with Darren Helm playing in the middle.

Nyquist, named Monday to Sweden's team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics as a replacement for injured Red Wings teammate Johan Franzen, scored his 14th goal of the season at 13:22 of the middle period. After grabbing a loose puck in his own zone, Nyquist raced over the Florida blue line and beat Thomas with a high wrist shot to the short side from the outside edge of the left circle.

"I just tried to catch the goalie a little bit off guard, shoot it quick," Nyquist said.

Thomas robbed Nyquist in the third period to keep the score 2-1 when he snagged a one-timer from a sharp angle with his glove.

Nyquist has as many goals in nine games as he had in his first 63 NHL games, dating back to the 2011-season.

"He's more relaxed," Alfredsson said of Nyquist. "You don't force it. It's just happening. He's got a natural talent for finding the right spots on the ice. He had some great opportunities besides his goal today. He's one of those guys that are tough to defend because he skates so well."

Scottie Upshall scored and Tim Thomas stopped 30 shots for Florida.

The game was the fifth and final of the season between these new Atlantic Division foes. Florida won three, including two victories in Detroit.

After recording a season-high 48 shots in their 4-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the Panthers managed a season-low two in the first period against Detroit and then only six in the second.

"We need shots," defenseman Mike Weaver said. "You're not going to score in this league if you're not getting a lot of shots, and we had eight shots in two periods. You can't do that. We've got to create more from the point in throwing shots to the net and getting traffic. It's simple."

Despite being outshot 11-2 in the first period, the Panthers led 1-0 thanks to Thomas' goaltending and Upshall's goal in the final minute.

After serving a penalty for slashing, Upshall came out of the box and got behind the defense before he batted Tomas Kopecky's breaking pass out of midair. Upshall then beat Howard with a quick shot through the five-hole.

Though his team was up after 20 minutes, Thomas said the Panthers were never able to build on the lead.

"We didn't come to play," Thomas said. "They kind of took it to us and we withstood that push. We got a very opportunistic goal at the end of the first. We got into the second and it was a little bit of the same as the first but I was hoping we could turn it around and get ourselves going after the momentum of that goal. … It was great to have that 1-0 lead but we never picked up any momentum off of it. In the third period we had a push but too little too late."

Alfredsson tied the score 1-1 at 6:30 of the second. Thomas stopped Niklas Kronwall's shot from the point, but the puck bounced off Justin Abdelkader and went to Alfredsson, standing all alone to the side of the net.

Detroit had a great chance to pad its 2-1 lead late in the second period when Kopecky was assessed minor penalties for hooking and for unsportsmanlike conduct after he flipped the puck at the referee. The Red Wings managed two shots on goal during the four-minute man advantage.

"Good win for our team," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought it was one-sided early. We could have been way up. Thomas was good. Then I thought we stopped skating halfway through the game and Howie had to be really good for us to end up with a win. We had real good penalty killing tonight and goaltending is a huge part of that.

"All in all, I thought we were 30 minutes real good and then 30 minutes not very good. We can play way better than that, but I also liked how we controlled the game early and how we got started."

Each team has one game left before the Olympic break. The Panthers visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday; the Red Wings stay in Florida and face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

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