DETROIT – Even though he was entangled in a 15-game goal-scoring drought before Monday, Damien Brunner felt good about the way he'd been playing lately.
“I thought the last couple of games, I started to get the feeling back,” Brunner said. “I was skating better, I had my legs underneath me, I was gaining a lot of confidence and getting a lot of scoring chances.
“I knew when I was getting the scoring chances that they were going to go in sometime.”
That sometime was Monday night when Brunner notched his 11th goal of the season midway through the second period, sealing a 3-2 win over the struggling Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena.
Brunner’s goal, which put the Wings up 3-0 at 9:54 of the middle frame, was made possible by the hard work of Gustav Nyquist. The rookie forward never gave up on the play in the offensive zone even after he was knocked down by an Avs’ defenseman.
Nyquist picked up a loose puck in the high slot, side-stepped a broken Colorado player’s stick and spotted Brunner in the lower left circle. And Brunner did the rest, firing a one-timer between Semyon Varlamov’s stick and the near post.
The goal chased Varlamov from the game as he was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who played the final period and a half.
“I saw the puck come loose and went to get it,” Nyquist said. “One of their guys made a move on me and then I saw Bruns was open back where he found a good spot. So just had to feed him the puck and he’ll make sure to put it in the back of the net.”
Monday’s goal was Brunner’s first since Feb. 24 when he netted two goals to record his first multi-goal game in the NHL. The second-period goal was also the first game-winner of his Wings’ career.
At one point this season, Brunner was just two-goals off the league lead in goals. But that was after he had bagged 10 goals in his first 19 NHL games.
While his assimilation to the North American style seemed to come easy, originally, the travel and the compressed schedule coming out of the NHL lockout may have caught up to Brunner who had played the last four-plus seasons in the Swiss national league back home in Switzerland.
“I really felt the heavy legs and was tired. I have to admit that,” said Brunner, who now has 11 goals and 11 assists in 34 games. “You’ve got to prepare yourself mentally to play tough every night. You’ve got to fight through it to bounce back. I hope I can take a positive from today and get some good games in the next couple of games.”
Nyquist, who was leading the AHL in scoring when he was called up to the Wings in mid-March, knows that goal-scorers like Brunner need to stay positive in order to trudge through difficult stretches.
“I think if you look around the league it happens to a lot of guys,” Nyquist said. “It goes up and down and in waves. Sometimes the puck just isn’t bouncing the right way for you. But you have to keep working hard and you’ll get rewarded eventually. Today was great to see Brunner get rewarded.”
THREE STARS: 3, Justin Abdelkader, DET (1 goal); 2, Jimmy Howard, DET (22 saves, W); 1, Johan Franzen, DET (2 assists).
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