DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Red Wings are getting healthier - and it shows.
Pavel Datsyuk scored twice to lift the Red Wings to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night, NHL-leading Detroit's second straight win after a 1-8-2 stretch.
"It seems like we are getting the players back," goalie Dominik Hasek said. "There is more confidence in the locker room."
The Red Wings were devastated by injuries during their skid: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall was already sidelined with an injured clavicle, and he was joined by Hasek (hip flexor), forward Dan Cleary (broken jaw), and defensemen Brian Rafalski (groin), Nicklas Lidstrom (knee) and Chris Chelios (leg).
Detroit was forced to play almost three games without its top four defensemen: Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall and Chelios. Kronwall and Hasek returned this past Friday, and Rafalski was back in the lineup against St. Louis on Wednesday night. Rafalski even scored a goal, while Lidstrom is expected back Sunday against Nashville.
"Finally to have these two guys back, it really helps our defense," said Hasek, who made 18 saves. "Not only defense, but I would say, once we get to the puck, they can skate with the puck, they can move the puck very quickly and give it to the forwards. It looked like we didn't spend as much time in our zone. One of the reasons was because we moved the puck much, much faster than before."
Johan Franzen also scored for the Red Wings.
Erik Johnson got the goal for the Blues, who have lost seven of their last eight. Manny Legace stopped 28 shots.
"They're a good team, obviously, leading the conference," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "You have to play a better game consistently than we did."
Franzen gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead 9:48 into the second period when he put in his own rebound as he was being knocked to the ice by Blues defenseman Eric Brewer. It was his second in two games.
"I'm not used to having streaks. I hope I can keep going," Franzen said. "We're starting to find each other, me, Sammy (Mikael Samuelsson) and Hank (Henrik Zetterberg) and playing better and better."
Rafalski, who missed eight games, scored 6:11 into the third period on a wrist shot from the high slot as he was being knocked down from behind by St. Louis' David Backes. It was Rafalski's 11th goal.
|St. Louis Blues head coach Andy Murray logged his 600th game as an NHL head coach on Wednesday, March 5, 2008, in Detroit. (NHLI via Getty Images)
"That helped," Rafalski said. "But even if I wouldn't have scored, I would have been happy with us winning."
Datsyuk's second goal of the game came into an empty net with 1:31 left.
Datsyuk opened the scoring 5:28 in when he directed in a rebound from the bottom of the left circle and it went in off the stick of the Blues' Martin Rucinsky when he tried to stop it from going in.
"I dove back. He didn't get a lot on it," Legace said. "I was going to grab it in with my stick, but he tipped it."
Johnson's power-play goal tied it with 1:33 left in the opening period. His wrist shot from the right point was deflected out of mid-air off of Hasek and into the net by Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja.
Notes: St. Louis RW Dan Hinote missed his fourth game with a sore hip. ... With an assist on Franzen's goal, Zetterberg has at least a point in 49 of his 61 games this season. ... The Blues began a franchise-record nine-game road trip. ... Red Wings C Tomas Kopecky was helped off the ice after a hit by St. Louis' Jeff Woywitka in the final minute. Coach Mike Babcock said Kopecky was OK after the game. ... It was Murray's 600th game as a NHL coach.