DETROIT – Bad knee and all, Valtteri Filppula delivered for the Wings Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena just like they had been hoping for at the start of the season.
Filppula twice and Jimmy Howard made 25 saves as lead Detroit beat the Dallas Stars, 4-1.
“Fil’s a huge talent for us and we need him to be a high end scorer for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He hasn’t been practicing. He’s got a few bumps and bruises, but he found a way to play here and he helped our team find a way to win.”
Detroit, which killed off all five Dallas power play chances, also got goals from Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner, who notched his team-leading third of the season. Pavel Datsyuk had two assists.
“It’s important for us to have depth up front, scoring, not just rely on a couple of the guys,” Howard said. “With Fil, he did a good job finding the soft areas on the ice and Pav found him.”
Loui Eriksson got the Stars’ goal, while Kari Lehtonen made 21 saves and Richard Bachman both shots he faced after coming on in relief late in the third period.
Filppula has not practiced or participated in morning skates before games as he’s still dealing with pain from a repaired MCL strain he suffered while playing overseas during the lockout.
“It definitely feels good to score,” Filppula said. “Really nice plays by Pav and (Todd Bertuzzi) as well, so it was nice to get those goals.
“It felt good,” Filppula added about scoring his first goal. “I think it’s always important to get goals. I’m glad I got my first one. Definitely gave me confidence, I’m happy that way.”
Filppula, who came in with three assists on the year, posted career numbers last season, 23 goals and 46 points.
“Obviously it’s been a lot of games so between games it hasn’t been too much time to rest,” Filppula said of his knee injury. “I’ve had to take practice days off and that’s not always the best thing but so far, I’m happy that I’ve been able to play all the games. Hopefully the knee starts feeling better as well.”
Filppula recorded his first goal of the season after Datsyuk did his patented stripping-of-the-puck-from-behind-the-net, this time on Jordie Benn, and fed it to him alone in front of Lehtonen.
“It’s kind of whenever he has the puck, trying to get ready and you can always get it,” Filppula said of Datsyuk’s ability to take pucks away. “It’s a good example of that. Nice pass there and I tried to shoot it right away. Luckily it went in.”
Before the period ended Zetterberg got just the Wings’ third power play goal of the season sending a rocket top shelf past Lehtonen after getting a feed from Patrick Eaves.
The goal came just before a 5-on-3 man advantage was about to expire and with just 24 seconds left in the period.
Brunner notched his team-leading third goal of the season, redirecting in a shot from the point from Johan Franzen just over six minutes into the third period.
“He looks like a hockey player to me,” Babcock said of Brunner. “He shoots. He goes to the net. He’s getting better defensively. We feel we’ve found ourselves a pretty good player. We feel real fortunate when we saw him and we were able to convince him to come here. He seems like a good fit.”
Just 23 seconds later, Filppula scored his second goal of the season and in the game sliding home a pass from Datsyuk after he had split a pair of forwards in the Stars’ zone and feeding it to his linemate.
Filppula nearly recorded his hat trick shorthanded but was stopped on a breakaway and then rebound attempt by Lehtonen.
There was a scary moment late in the second period when Bertuzzi was clipped under his left eye.
“Wearing a visor might be a good thing,” Babcock said. “I’d hate to see that happen to a guy because that could change your life forever. That’s part of the game, but a visor would fix that.”
The most exciting part of the first period for Wings fans came when Jordin Tootoo got into two fights.
Tootoo first dropped his gloves with Eric Nystrom just three seconds into the period and then squared off with Brendan Dillon with four minutes left.
As a team Detroit had just 15 fighting majors last season, led by Justin Abdelkader with six. Tootoo already has three this season.
“Just good old-time hockey,” Tootoo said. “I mean, I thought we needed another little energy boost there and that’s pretty much what happened.”
Detroit did however fail to score in the first period for a sixth straight game to begin the season.
“I think we didn’t start as well as we wanted to,” Filppula said. “Even though last game we played in Chicago we played an OK game. That’s the most important thing, trying to keep getting better every game. I think today was a good game and hopefully we can build on it.”