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Top line shines in Wings' 7-4 victory

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
David Legwand scores his first goal in a red Wings' uniform, helping Detroit to a 7-4 win over the visiting Devils Friday night. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Well, it was about a game and a half.

That’s how long it took the Red Wings’ new power line to flip the switch on the offense since David Legwand was acquired from Nashville at the trade deadline earlier in the week.

Legwand was plopped onto the top line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist, which was relatively silent in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Colorado. But Friday had a far different outcome.

The trio combined to score four goals and 11 points in a 7-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. The seven goals is Detroit’s season-high and the most its scored since an 8-3 home win over Vancouver last season.

“Obviously two great players, world-class players and it’s an honor to play with them and we had the puck tonight, we were moving it and I think obviously when you can move and skate it’s going to create some chances and opportunities,” said Legwand, the game’s first star, who had a goal and two assists.

With back-to-back home games on the schedule since his arrival this week, Legwand hasn’t had the luxury of practicing with his new linemates. But the Detroit native as instantly found a comfort level with Franzen and Nyquist.

“They play a give-and-go game, it’s something you know it’s good,” Legwand said. “I played it before and it’s nice. Obviously Gus is a player that likes to skate and move his feet and Mule’s a huge body that can shoot the puck and he’s going to get in front of the net so they did a great job tonight and we got pucks to the net.”

The Red Wings are now 9-0-1 when they have scored five goals or more this season.

Detroit took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on Brendan Smith’s first regular-season goal at The Joe in more than two years.

Franzen, who finished the night with four points, scored his first of two goals on the night when he deflected Nyquist’s wrist shot at 5:34 of the second period. The goal kicked started a flurry of goals to come as the teams combined to score seven times during an 11/ ½ minute stretch.

Since battling back from a concussion that he sustained in December, Franzen has been nearly unstoppable, producing 12 points in his past six games.

“The Mule’s been good, he didn’t get to play very much, that’s all,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Now that he’s playing it’s real obvious why he’s so important. Leadership-wise he has to be a huge factor for us. When you’re one of the best players in the league you have to play like that each and every night.”

Like Franzen, Nyquist had a four-point night. In all, six different Red Wings scored, and eight collected assists, including Todd Bertuzzi who had two.

The Red Wings managed to wade through a poor 2 ½ minute stretch in the second period when the Devils took a 3-2 lead on goals by Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr and Adam Henrique (two goals). Babcock used the Red Wings’ timeout after Jagr’s goal at 10:20 but it didn’t do much good, at least not immediately, as Henrique scored 1:24 later to give New Jersey its only lead of the game.

“Babs called a timeout, we settled down and we got back at ‘em,” Legwand said. “We got up 5-3, we got three quick ones ourselves and moved on and we did a good job of coming in here and locking it down in the third period.”

In little more than three minutes, Detroit got a power-play goal from Franzen and even-strength tallies from Nyquist and defenseman Kyle Quincey to take a 5-3 lead into the second intermission.

Legwand got his first goal as a Red Wing at 4:48 of the third, and Drew Miller scored just his second goal in the last 20 games to give Detroit a 7-3 cushion at 12:52.

It was the first time in 133 career starts that Devils goalie Cory Schneider allowed more than five goals in an NHL game.

Red Wings backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson stoped 21 shots to stretch his record to 15-4-3 this season.

With 71 points in the standings, Detroit is now two points ahead of Columbus for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“The points are huge. So much of it is if we start the way we did and lose the game it’s the negative side,” Babcock said. “You don’t have to overcome anything and suddenly there’s energy in the room, you can hear it back there. The energy you get out of it is so good.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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