DETROIT – After losing three straight last week, how badly did the Red Wings need two big wins in regulation this weekend?
Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, coupled with a 4-2 win at Toronto on Saturday, upgraded the Red Wings' temporary playoff status from critical to serious.
“It’s huge obviously to get four points on a back-to-back weekend is big especially the race is so tight,” Red Wings center David Legwand said. “If we can start gaining some ground here and getting some traction we’ll be alright.”
The win gives Detroit 84 points in its fight with three other teams for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference race. The Red Wings are now two points ahead of idle Columbus and four ahead of Washington and Toronto.
The Capitals’ game in Nashville was an 8 p.m. EDT start Sunday.
The Red Wings built a two-goal lead on goals by Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Legwand, while backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson made 26 saves in his first start in a dozen games.
The win was huge for the Red Wings, especially since the Lightning entered the game on the hottest winning streak in the league. The loss was the first in regulation for Tampa Bay (7-1-4) in its last 12 games.
“We’re just plugging away, grinding away,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We knew going in they had lots of skill. We’ve had tight games with them all they, they’ve all been one goal games. We’ve never been able to find a way to beat Bishop much, it’s been one or two at the most and tonight we got three by him. That’s why we won.
The Red Wings have eight games remaining, with three at home, including two this week against Boston on Wednesday and Buffalo on Friday. Detroit finishes up with four of its final five games on the road, where the Wings have 19 wins, three more than their home win total.
“When you drop the first two of the week, you want to end the week on a good note,” said Nyquist, who extended his point streak to nine straight games with an incredible goal. “It's going to mean a lot for the standings.”
With a slight edge, the Red Wings feel like they control their own playoff destiny with two weeks left in the regular season.
“We gotta find to find a way to win some games here to get in,” Nyquist continued. “We've got Washington breathing down our necks and Columbus is right with us here, and Toronto's in the mix too. Everyone's going to be playing for their playoff lives here. It's a good thing we have it in our own hands at least.”
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