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Datsyuk strikes twice in 2-1 win

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Up to his old tricks, Pavel Datsyuk had Red Wings' fans on their feet all night long at Joe Louis Arena, collecting his 18th multi-point game of the season. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – Just when it seems like nothing else could possibly be in Pavel Datsyuk’s bag of tricks, the Red Wings’ magician dazzles with a play like the one which setup the Wings’ first-period goal.

And that wasn’t even his best contribution Friday.

With just five-seconds to spare in regulation, Datsyuk scored his first game-winning goal in more than a month, helping the Wings stretch their NHL record home winning streak to 22 straight with a 2-1 decision over the Nashville Predators.

“Z made a perfect pass and I had speed,” said Datsyuk, referring to the pass that Henrik Zetterberg made to spring Datsyuk on the winning play.

Datsyuk started the play by winning a face-off deep in the Predators’ zone. Nicklas Lidstrom circled back into the neutral zone and made a nifty backhanded pass off the half wall to Zetterberg, who in turn slipped a pass to Datsyuk. After he victimized Ryan Suter – turning the Predators’ defenseman inside-out – he blasted a hard wrist shot that beat goalie Pekka Rinne high over the blocker.

“He comes with a lot of speed and the D is basically standing still, so you don’t want any player coming down there, especially Pav,” said Zetterberg, who earned his 600th career point on the play. “He makes a really good move and takes a really good shot, so he’s a very nice player, a very skilled player.”

Coach Mike Babcock reunited the Euro Twins in the third period, and it certainly seemed to energize Datsyuk, who had four of his five shots on goal in the final period.

“To be honest, I thought Pav was good, but I didn't think he had that jump like he can have and dominate from start to finish,” Babcock said. “But he can make plays. They were good players in the end. Nick didn't clean the puck off he got it right up, Z checked his shoulder before he got it and Pavel did the rest. That's what good players do.”

Datsyuk also assisted on Johan Franzen’s first-period goal, giving the Wings’ center 18 multi-point games of the season – his first since Jan. 23. Datsyuk’s 43 assists is tied for third-best in the league with Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The Wings are 15-3-0 when Datsyuk collects more than one point this season.

Despite blowing a tire as he streaked down the left wing, Datsyuk made a spectacular pass to Todd Bertuzzi while in a horizontal position along the boards. Datsyuk later kidded with reporters that a sniper inside Joe Louis Arena was to blame for knocking him to the ice.

Unfortunately for Shea Weber, the play wasn’t a laughing matter. The Nashville defenseman played Datsyuk perfectly, forcing the Wings’ center to the outside, but even in a prone position Datsyuk managed to fire a pass – in one sweeping motion – past Weber and onto Todd Bertuzzi’s tape. From there, Bertuzzi spotted Franzen in front of the crease, who buried a shot that beat goalie Pekka Rinne on the short side.

“You see him in practice, too, doing things and all of a sudden he does them in games and pulls them off,” Zetterberg said. “We’ll probably see more things, too.”

Late in the second period, Datsyuk victimized Weber a second time, picking the pocket of the Predators’ defenseman when he stole the puck along the boards deep in Nashville’s zone.

Still one of the league’s smoothest back-checking forwards in the game, Datsyuk led all skaters Friday with five takeaways. He now has a league-leading 81 takeaways in a category that he’s claimed in three of the last five seasons.

“Fifteen seconds to go, the most dangerous guy on the ice,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “You knew that puck's going to him somewhere. Just play him straight up. You've just got to be aware of where he is and be a little tighter to him. Haul him down, do something.
“He made two special plays, and they got two goals. That's why he's one of the great forwards in the league.”

In the end, the Wings earned their 40th win of the season and now have 82-points in the standings, three-points ahead of the New York Rangers in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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