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Zetterberg delivers on promise

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring Tuesday with his first goal in 28 games. His third-period assist set up Pavel's Datsyuk's game-winner. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Henrik Zetterberg challenged himself.

The Red Wings’ captain has been disappointed in the way he’s played lately, netting just one goal in his past 27 games.

But Tuesday he responded with a huge two-point effort, helping the Wings inch closer to clinching a 24th straight postseason berth.

Zetterberg scored a power-play goal and set-up Pavel Datsyuk’s game-winner in the third period as the Red Wings managed to claw from behind for a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings need to win one of their final two games on the road this week to qualify for the postseason. Detroit finishes the regular season with games at Montreal on Thursday and Carolina on Saturday.

Had Pittsburgh won in regulation at Ottawa on Tuesday, the Wings would have clinched. However, the Senators stormed back from a three-goal deficit to win 4-3 in overtime.

That’s par for the course for the Wings. Nothing has come easy for this team, who hasn’t won consecutive games since early March.

“The bottom line for us is we’re in control of our situation,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I think it’s important that our team’s had to fight through some adversity. Adversity makes you better. We got to fight through this. We got to go into Montreal and find a way to win a game.”

Following Tuesday’s morning skate, Zetterberg was ultra critical of his lack of production over the last two months.

“I don’t think he should have called himself out if that’s what he did,” said Gustav Nyquist, who also scored in the third period. “He’s been our leader throughout the whole season and he’s been playing great. He’s still creating chances. Just because the puck isn’t going in doesn’t matter he’s not creating chances and creating energy for us. He was great, just as every other night for us.”

Zetterberg opened the scoring on the Red Wings’ first power play chance of the game. Datsyuk made a perfect centering pass from the far wall, and Zetterberg gather the pass before lifting a backhand shot over Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin at 1:29 of the second period. It was Zetterberg's first power-play tally since Jan. 18 against Buffalo.

The Hurricanes roared back to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

Nyquist scored the equalizer when it appeared that the Hurricanes had the Wings attackers – Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar and Kyle Quincey – all covered on a rush through the neutral zone. But Nyquist, who trailed on the play, was left unaccounted for as he crossed the blue line, where he took a pass from Datayuk and wristed a shot that went underneath Khudobin at 1:56 of the third.

“I don’t think he saw anything,” Nyquist said. “I kind of fanned on the puck. I think I got slashed the same time as I shot it and I think Tats was driving the net. He drove all those guys deep and Pav made a nice play to pull it up and feed it to me. It was nice to see it go in.”

Zetterberg showed his grit and determination as a team leader, setting up the game winner at 11:25 in the third. Fighting off Justin Faulk’s check along the boards, Zetterberg remained hard on the puck, carrying the play behind the Hurricanes’ net where he spotted Datsyuk sliding down from the blue line in front of the crease.

It was the first time in a long time that Zetterberg and Datsyuk were paired together on the same line. And the move played dividends.

“I was obviously excited to be back with Pavel. It’s been awhile,” said Zetterberg, who has a team-leading 64 points. “It’s good when we get an opportunity to play together to produce. I have to give a lot of credit to (Darren Helm) being in front of the net on both of the goals. He really created a lot of space for us and gives us a lot of time.”

Earlier in the day, the captain picked at his flaws, particularly his scoring slump. But Babcock was far less critical.

“You know, everyone here takes responsibility for their play and as a coach you take responsibility when your team’s not ready. But we’re all in it together,” Babcock said. “So it doesn’t go on one guy and you’re not carrying the weight of the world around on your back. That makes no sense. So he and I talked today after I heard that he had talk to you guys. I mean, Z’s a good player and he’s a proud guy and wants to play well. He’s trying. I think as long as you’re putting the effort in things are going to turn of you. Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it, but if you do good things, as I always say, good things will happen.”

The win lifts the Wings into third place in the Atlantic Division with 97 points. They still control their own playoff destiny over Pittsburgh (96 points), Boston (95) and Ottawa (95).

“It’s going to be tight all the way to the end,” Nyquist said. “We didn’t expect anything easy here. We control our own fate and we’re happy with that.”

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