DETROIT -- It was a big night for a veteran defenseman and a rookie defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings.
Niklas Kronwall had a milestone night while Joe Hicketts picked up his first career points in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Little Caesars Arena Tuesday night.
The Wings improved to 28-38-11 overall and 15-15-8 at home while the Penguins fell to 43-28-6 overall and 15-20-4 on the road.
Niklas Kronwall, Frans Nielsen (power play), Luke Glendening (two, one empty-netter) and Darren Helm scored for Detroit while Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang scored for Pittsburgh.
1. Niklas Kronwall: Kronwall isn't quite the offensive defenseman he once was due to chronic knee issues but his instincts remain. At 16:43 of the first, Kronwall moved into the slot and shot the puck past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray. Helm and Dylan Larkin assisted. The goal was a milestone for Kronwall as it was his 80th career goal, tying him with Marcel Pronovost for fourth in team history among defensemen. It also marked Kronwall's 400th career point in his 869th game. It was Kronwall's fourth goal of the season and first in 13 games. His last goal came March 2 at Winnipeg.
Quotable: "It was nice. Definitely was nice that we got the win. That was the most important thing. You play hockey because you love winning. Obviously you love the game but the game is a lot more fun when you're winning. Living in general is a lot more fun when you're winning, there's no hiding it. You play hockey 'cause you love competing and you love to win and the feeling in the locker room when you win compared to when you lose, it's night and day. So it's definitely nice to get on the right side of things and now we just got to keep building off this and go to Buffalo tomorrow and see what we can do there on Thursday." - Kronwall
Quotable II: "(It was nice to see) everyone that has been in this locker room and has spent a lot of time here knows what he's gone through the last 10 years with his body and how he battles through everything with his work ethic and how he shows the young players how to do things right. It nice to see him get rewarded. It was a pretty nice shot there, too." - Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg
Quotable III: "I have as much respect for Niklas Kronwall as any player. Probably similar to Z. I think he's been an underrated defenseman for a long time. I was here when he was right in his prime as an assistant. He was always in the shadows with Nick Lidstrom, but he was such a two-way defenseman. He brought the physical element, he brings the offense, he's done such a good job over the years and there's not a better pro. You guys know his work ethic is amazing. Probably sometimes he does too much. There's been times where we've kind of said to him, 'Do you need to work that hard in the gym?' He's just got that inner drive that makes great players. I think it's awesome that he reached that milestone. It's an honor to coach him." - Wings coach Jeff Blashill
Quotable IV: "It's surreal. I grew up watching him, his big hits on the half-wall there at the old Joe Louis. Congrats to him. He's been a big part of my development over my four years in the organization along with guys like (Trevor) Daley, (Danny) DeKeyser, (Jonathan) Ericsson, Zetterberg. It's a credit to the leadership they have in this dressing room and the culture they've created." - Joe Hicketts
2. Joe Hicketts: Called up from Grand Rapids after the Wings' 4-2 loss Monday night in Montreal, Hicketts recorded his first career NHL point, assisting on Nielsen's power-play goal at 14:28 of the second period, giving the Wings a 2-1 lead. Hicketts was playing in his second NHL game and did what he always has done: prove his critics wrong. Listed at a generous 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, the undrafted free agent has been fighting the stigma of his smallish stature his entire hockey career. Known for his intensity and high compete level, Hicketts finished with two assists in 17:40 of ice time in Tuesday's victory over the Penguins. He also led Detroit with six blocked shots. Before Tuesday's game, Blashill told reporters if Hicketts wanted to make a name for himself at the NHL level, he would have to improve his skating and be able to run all facets of the power play. If Tuesday was any indication, Hicketts seems to be off to an encouraging start.
Quotable: "I think in the first, a little bit of star-struck maybe, playing against Sidney Crosby out there, but I thought as the game went on I got better and that's all I wanted to do. In the second period I kind of knew what I wanted to do, maybe not (as strong as I wanted to play) but in the third I thought I really brought what I wanted to bring. Now it's going to be about continuing that and bringing it every day. I know that if I want to leave the impression I want to leave you got to go out there and do what the coaching staff wants. Doing too much has gotten me in trouble many times before but those are errors you learn and live with." - Hicketts
Quotable II: "I thought he got better as the game went along. Joe has just got lots of swagger, lots of confidence. With that kind of swagger, he'll have to manage his turnovers, he'll have to manage certain mistakes, but he plays to win hockey games. That's why he's had success at the Canadian world junior level, that's why he had success in the WHL, that's why he had success in the American League. He doesn't look like a normal NHL defenseman with his size-skating combo. He's been able to defy odds. Can he keep defying odds? We'll see. Careers certainly aren't defined in one game or two games. They're defined time after time after time." - Blashill
Quotable III: "I don't know what's left to say about (Hicketts). He's just a big smile that comes in, brings a lot of energy. That stuff's contagious. That's something we definitely need right now." - Kronwall
3. Frans Nielsen/Luke Glendening/Darren Helm: Nielsen has been on the penalty kill all season but has not been a regular on the power play until recently. At 14:28 of the second period, with Pittsburgh defenseman Jamie Oleksiak in the box for high-sticking, Nielsen scored from the left circle to make it 2-1 Detroit. Martin Frk and Joe Hicketts got the assists. It was Nielsen's fourth power-play goal of the season and 16th overall goal. Nielsen is third on the team in goals to Anthony Mantha's 23 and Gustav Nyquist's 20. Glendening is more concerned about preventing goals than scoring them but he deflected Nick Jensen's shot past Murray at 15:09 of the second for a 3-1 Detroit lead. In his usual role as penalty killer, Glendening had a shorthanded breakaway at 3:02 of the third but Murray was able to make the save. Glendening added an empty-net goal at 18:32 of the third. It was Glendening's 11th goal of the season, one shy of his career high of 12 set in the 2014-15 season. It was Glendening's second career multi-goal game. His previous one came Jan. 27, 2015 at Florida. At 6:21 of the third, Larkin found Helm alone in the right circle and Helm made it 4-1 with his 10th goal of the season. With his assists on Kronwall's goal and Glendening's goal, Helm tied his career high with three points. Helm also had three points on Feb. 2 against Carolina, also a goal and two assists.
Quotable: "I thought it was great. We've gone through this stretch and not won many games. We've worked extremely hard, we've competed hard, we've actually played some good hockey. It's been tough but our guys kept getting up. I didn't like us last night, and I think then for us to answer tonight with a performance like that was great." - Blashill
Quotable II: "It was good. It was a tough turnaround for us coming in from Montreal last night and having Pittsburgh waiting for us here, but I thought we played simple and they're really good when they (get) turnovers, they're really skilled when they get the puck with speed. I thought we took care of that in a good way today, and (Jimmy Howard) was good in net and the PK was good." - Zetterberg