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Simply clinching

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk celebrates his third-period goal with Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi. Together the Wings' trio combined for 10 points in Monday's 7-2 win over Columbus. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – The Red Wings needed a win to guarantee a spot in this spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs and extend the longest current playoff streak in North America’s four major sports.

But it didn’t require a full 60-minute effort for a positive outcome by the Wings Monday night. And by the time Jiri Hudler scored the Wings’ fourth goal of the game – with more than 10-minutes still remained in the first period – the 65th consecutive sold-out crowd was singing along to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ much earlier than normal at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings scored four goals in the first and added two more in the second en route to a lopsided 7-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It’s a big win for our team and we’ve got ourselves in the playoffs for the 21st time in a row and that’s a positive thing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Now we have come back on Wednesday and play better because we have to get better, we have to be feeling good about our game going in.”

Next up for the Wings is a second consecutive game against the Blue Jackets Wednesday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

The Wings were in such control Monday that six different players had multiple-point games, including center Henrik Zetterberg and forward Todd Bertuzzi, who each had four assists. Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula added two assists each, and Tomas Holmstrom scored two power-play goals, while Pavel Datsyuk added a goal and an assist.

Rookie Gustav Nyquist also recorded his first NHL goal in his 12th career game when he took a beautiful spin-o-rama pass from Datsyuk and tapped the puck into the open side of the net for a 2-0 lead less than six-minutes in the first period.

“I don’t really know how he saw me there, but he’s got eyes on the back of his neck,” Nyquist said. “Obviously when you’re open you have to always be ready for a pass, especially with a guy like him because he probably knows where you are. You always have to be ready when you’re playing with him. … An easy goal for me, but obviously a special feeling.”

Holmstrom’s goals give him 121 career power-play tallies, exactly half of his career scoring output in 15 NHL seasons.

“He is that guy who is going to be there in front of the net all the time and we need that
net-front presence, too, once the playoffs start,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who also scored Monday.
The win gives the Wings 97-points and lifts them into the No. 4 seed, one-point ahead of Nashville in the Western Conference standings. The Wings host the Predators Friday night in what could decide home-ice advantage in a first-round playoff series between the two Central Division rivals.

The Wings' 21-year playoff streak is longest current streak in the four major sports, with the next-longest active NHL playoff streak owned by the San Jose Sharks at seven straight. The streak is also a franchise best, surpassing the 20-season streak established between 1939 and 1958 when the Wings won five Stanley Cup titles.

“For this group it means that we’re in this year and that’s all that really matters,” Babcock said of the playoff streak. “But when you look at our franchise that’s done it 21 years in a row it’s spectacular and obviously the Ilitches have done a great job.”

The longest NHL streak is still owned by the Boston Bruins who qualified for the playoffs 29 straight seasons from 1968-96.

“It's a great feeling, knowing we're going to the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “Now it's just a matter of trying to finish as high as we can in the standings. Points are so important and we're looking to move up, if we can.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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