DET-NYI 03:21:24

DETROIT -- This late in the season, as the Detroit Red Wings look to keep pace in a competitive Eastern Conference Playoffs race, every game has heightened importance.

But there’s no denying that the Red Wings’ 6-3 win over the New York Islanders at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday night meant a little more, as the victory helped Detroit (36-28-6; 78 points) take a three-point lead over Washington (33-26-9; 75 points) and five-point lead over New York (29-25-15; 73 points) for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

“It was exactly what kind of attitude we needed,” said captain Dylan Larkin, who scored two goals in his return to the Red Wings’ lineup after missing the last eight games with a lower-body injury. “It was just a great win and great to be part of it.”

Goalie James Reimer made 34 saves in his second straight start for Detroit, which improved to 21-11-5 on home ice this season. Netminder Ilya Sorokin stopped 19 shots for New York, which saw its winless streak reach six straight games.

“It’s unbelievable, just the difference when everyone is slotted where they need to be,” Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde said about Larkin being back in the lineup. “Quality win, great team win. A huge positive and we needed it. We took care of business at home.”

Neither club found the back of the net in the first period, though the Islanders outshot the Red Wings 9-7.

Christian Fischer opened the scoring at 11:15 of the second period after he took a pass from Michael Rasmussen and went between Sorokin’s legs for a breakaway goal to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.

“Came up with (the breakaway move) on the spot,” said Fischer, who has five goals this season. “It was on its side too, which you hate to see that. But yeah, found a way to put it in. Got a little excited there on the celebration, which was nice.”

Less than two minutes later (13:23) in the second period, New York answered with a goal from Mike Reilly, who sent a shot from just below the offensive blue line that snuck five-hole past Reimer to make it 1-1.

“These really soft goals keep finding him, but they don’t deflate our guys,” Lalonde said about Reimer. “I know it sounds crazy. We get the one goal, the place is rocking and he gives up a goal. But our guys know he’s going to be there for us and that’s exactly what he did.”

Andrew Copp scored his first goal of the game at 16:00 of the second period, cleaning up the rebound of Fischer’s shot at the side of the Islanders' crease to put the Red Wings back in front 2-1. Ben Chiarot recorded the secondary assist on Copp’s 11th goal of the season.

Making it 3-1 in Detroit's favor, Larkin one-timed a pass from Alex DeBrincat in the slot for his first goal of the night at 18:08 of the second period.

The Red Wings continued applying pressure early in the third period, with Copp scoring his second goal of the night at 6:22 to make it 4-1. Assisted by Fischer and Rasmussen, Copp located a rebound below the right face-off circle and snuck it past Sorokin to light the lamp for the 12th time this season.

The line of Rasmussen, Copp and Fischer combined for seven points (three goals, four assists) against New York.

“All of their success came off simple hockey,” Lalonde said about the trio of forwards. “When I say the right way, they own the middle of the ice, defending correctly, playing off the forecheck. Everything we kind of want out of our team game.”

Patrick Kane made it 5-1 at 6:22 of the third period, depositing a one-timer on the rush for his 16th goal of the season. Alex DeBrincat and Shayne Gostisbehere had the assists.

Despite its four-goal deficit, the Islanders made things interesting midway through the third period. After Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a power-play goal at 9:34, Mathew Barzal’s wrister just 1:46 later made it a 5-3 game.

With 3:45 remaining, Larkin capped the scoring when he sent a pass from Lucas Raymond into an empty net for his team-leading 28th goal of the season and the 6-3 final.

“It was a tough game in the third (period) because we had the 5-1 lead,” Lalonde said. “Our guy gets pushed into the goalie and their guy blatantly runs right over our goalie. Our guys got very upset but at the same time, you could see the maturity in the group. Take a breather, relax.”

Larkin said Detroit's victory over New York speaks volumes to what the Red Wings believe they can accomplish this season.

“When you play games like that, it just validates that feeling that we belong in the playoffs,” Larkin said. “That’s our goal. There’s going to be bumps, but we’ve shown that we can stick together."

NEXT UP: Detroit will open a five-game road trip on Saturday evening, first facing the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.


Lalonde on how Larkin's return to the lineup

“He was excellent. I was really confident with what I saw the last couple days. Maybe a little rust early on with some puck play. I think he didn’t finish in the slot, had a chance in the backdoor, but that’s going to happen. I thought he did a great job.”

Larkin on how he felt physically

“I felt great. I was a little bit wired and yelling a lot, like (Fischer) normally does. A little too much pre-workout, but I was excited to get back in. It means a lot to me, it means a lot to our fans and every guy in this room. I think we just got to keep this rolling and continue to win hockey games.”

Fischer on Larkin’s impact

“There’s a little bit more jump. I’m sitting right next to the guy, but he means everything to this team. The season that he’s had up until that injury is remarkable. Obviously, a true No. 1 center, which is really hard to find and he drives the play. Like I just said, you see every guy just competing a little bit harder. Having the presence of Larks back there, it’s huge for this group.”