Joe Louis Arena looked, well, normal Monday night as the Red Wings put on a performance their fans had been accustomed to seeing.
A 3-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins conjured memories of the last two Stanley Cup Finals as the two clubs battled like the Cup again was on the line.
Thanks to a rash of injuries and slumps this season, that hasn't always been the case for the Wings. Now, however, with the bulk of the lineup healthier than any other time this season and players like Henrik Zetterberg
and Pavel Datsyuk
again looking like All-Stars, the Wings are on the upswing.
Zetterberg scored twice and did yeoman's work shutting down a frustrated Sidney Crosby to pace the win. Goalie Jimmy Howard
stepped in and applied the old face wash when Crosby went after Zetterberg at the end of the game. And the crowd loved it all.
"This was the way we like it," Zetterberg told reporters. "It was loud and every time you go onto the ice the crowd is with you. It was like a playoff game."
As for Howard, he is the latest in line, following Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood, of goaltenders who ride to the rescue when a teammate is in trouble.
"Just helping a teammate, that's all," Howard aw-shucks-ed later. "It's become quite a rivalry and we have to stick together out there."
As for Crosby's crosscheck to Zetterberg, Howard said, "He does that all the time and somehow he gets away with it."
"Just a lot of feeling and a lot of emotion after a game, nothing more," Zetterberg said. "If it was reversed, I probably would have done the same thing."
In the standings, the win was important for the Wings, who are 9-2-1 in their last dozen and moved four points ahead of Calgary for eighth in the West and within four points of the fifth spot.
"This is the best run we've been on all year," coach Mike Babcock said. "We're desperate to try to get into the playoffs. We've got proud players who've done a lot of winning over a long time here and we'd all like to be in the tournament, and we think we'll have a shot if we get in.
"We had a real good team effort here tonight, and I thought the goaltending was strong. All in all, a good game and a good win for us."
"You've got to give credit to the Red Wings for the way they played tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged. "They battled. They were a desperate team. I think our level, as far as desperation, needs to go up."WELL SAID:
"It's irrelevant who we play, pretty much. We've got to take care of business because we need every point we can get. But we (Wings and Penguins) are two teams that have been to the Stanley Cup Finals the last two years in a row, and pretty much whenever we meet, it's a great game." -- Wings goalie Jimmy Howard