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Lidstrom helps spark win in return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom returned to the Red Wings' lineup Saturday after an 11-game absence as the veteran defenseman recovered from a deep ankle bruise. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – It’s not the start Nicklas Lidstrom had wished for in his first game back, but it certainly ended the way the Red Wings desired.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored on its first shift of the game and built a three-goal lead before the Wings mounted their most impressive comeback of the season with a 5-4 victory Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Lidstrom made his way back to the Wings’ lineup for the first time since suffering a badly bruised right ankle Feb. 25, and after a slow start, the captain helped end the team’s six-game losing skid.

“It felt OK, a little rusty out there moving the puck and kind of reading plays,” Lidstrom said, “but you need to play games to get back into it again.”

To the casual observer, Lidstrom looked good as new, logging more than 20-minutes of ice-time while collecting his first assist since Feb. 17.

“It's not fun to be without him. It was good to see him out there again,” said Henrik Zetterberg, who had two goals Saturday. “I thought he skated good. Looks like he didn't miss a bit. We're starting to get healthy. We hopefully get a few more guys back before the next game so we can get healthy and be ready for the playoffs.”

The Wings didn’t look very healthy early on when Hurricanes center Jiri Tlusty scored 17-seconds into the game, racing down the right wing and lifted a backhand shot that popped off the blade of Ian White’s stick and over goalie Ty Conklin, who had dropped to a knee to cut-off the lower half of the net.

“I thought that we were getting into the game after that first goal on the first shift,” said Lidstrom, who had four shots on goal and blocked two. “They had an off-sides winger coming across, a bad break for us going off the stick there, but I thought we worked our way into the game and we had our chances.”

Carolina took its 1-0 lead into the first intermission before the teams evenly combined on a six-goal outburst in the second period. But the Wings quickly found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-1 score when the ’Canes connected on a pair of power-play goals by Jamie McBain and Tlusty just 17-seconds apart.

Carolina’s power play got started when Lidstrom was called for interference on second-year center Jeff Skinner with 6:21 left in the second. Then, with 31-seconds left in Lidstrom’s penalty, Danny Cleary joined the Wings’ captain in the penalty box for hooking Skinner.

McBain gave Carolina a 3-1 lead when he scored with one-second left in Lidstrom’s penalty. Tlusty struck for his second career goal against the Wings 17-seconds later.
Lidstrom, who has played in 1,557 games, has missed a total of 44 regular-season games during his 20 NHL seasons. In contrast, iconic Steve Yzerman missed 322 regular-season games out of a possible 1,836 games in 22 seasons.

Of the seven NHL players, who spent some or all of their 1,500-plus game careers with the Red Wings, hall of famers Alex Delvecchio missed 42 regular-season contests out of a possible 1,591, and Gordie Howe sat-out 57 out of a 1,824.

Without Lidstrom, the Wings struggled to a 3-6-2 record, while being out-scored 32-28.

But their fortunes turned around when they finished the game with four unanswered goals, including Drew Miller’s fourth game-winning goal of the season.
“All game I thought our line played real well and cycled in their zone and we had good success with that,” Miller said. “In the third we were throwing a lot of pucks at the net and I felt that we got a lucky break off the face-off there and got the goal. It was a big goal for our team, but I think the two-points are what we needed right now, especially at home.”

NOTEBOOK: Lidstom wasn’t the only injured defenseman to make it back into the lineup Saturday night. Jakub Kindl, who had missed eight straight games with a strained oblique muscle returned for the first time since March 4.

Kindl’s injury was tested early in the first period when he was rocked by Hurricanes defenseman Bryan Allen with 12:36 left in the first period.

“I haven’t seen the replay,” Kindl said. “But all I remember is that I tried to move the puck and skated into the zone and I didn’t see him coming, to be honest.”

Kindl carried the puck across the blue line and made a pass before he was leveled by Allen, who took two or three strides before he dropped his left shoulder into Kindl’s chest.

 “I don’t know if it was a dirty hit or not,” he said. “All I remember is that I skated into the zone and then I got hit. I was a little shocked; I don’t think I’ve ever been hit like that in the NHL.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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