DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings did exactly what they needed to do on home ice over these last three games, win them all.
And because of it they continue to hold all the cards as they try and reach the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season.
The Wings got five goals from five different skaters as they breezed by the Nashville Predators, 5-2, Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s huge,” said Justin Abdelkader after Detroit’s third straight win on home ice. “We talked about it and it all started on Monday against Phoenix. It was a good home stand for us.”
The win catapulted the Wings, who close out the regular season Saturday in Dallas, into the seventh seed with 54 points, one point ahead of Minnesota.
“So far so good,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We’ve got one more big one to go. We’ll take this for what it is, we put ourselves in a good situation, hopefully we can take care of business on Saturday,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
The Wild have two games left to play, hosting Edmonton on Friday before playing at Colorado on Saturday.
“It was just important for us to hold serve,” Abdelkader said. “We just took it one game at a time at home here. We came out and established our game and just kind of carried the momentum every game.”
Columbus dashed any hopes of the Wings locking up a playoff spot Thursday night after beating Dallas.
“It’s tough to sometimes to watch and have to rely on other teams to win or lose,” Abdelkader said. “We’ve had control of our own destiny and we still do. We have one game here to hopefully finish it off.”
The Wings need just one point against Dallas, which has been eliminated from the postseason, Saturday to qualify for the postseason.
They can also get in with a loss in regulation to Dallas as long as Columbus doesn’t get more than a point at home to Nashville on Saturday. Detroit holds the first tiebreaker, regulation and overtime wins, on the Blue Jackets.
Detroit also gets in with a pair of Minnesota losses.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot better as a team,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “All you’ve got to do is look back at our first segment, our penalty killing was 70 percent and our power play for 0-for. We just continued to get better as a team. That’s what happens when you have young people, especially with no training camp. We’ve got a long way to go, still got to find a way to get in the playoffs. That’s going to be three days from now.”
Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Patrick Eaves, Pavel Datsyuk and Abdelkader each scored for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard made 20 saves.
The Predators, who needed five games to knock Detroit out of the playoffs last year in the first round, got goals from Mike Fisher and Craig Smith. Chris Mason, who has one win on the season, made Masson 33 saves.
“The three games didn’t happen,” Babcock said. “What happened was you keep getting better so you earn confidence to feel good about yourself, that’s over a long period of time. We were playing real well before we started winning. We were losing 1-0, lose in a shootout, played good teams and found a way to self-destruct or we couldn’t get to three.
“Today’s game, you hear the crowd, cheering the guys even in warmup, 95 straight sellouts, our team’s not the same, we’re the first to admit it,” Babcock continued. “That doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to grow a new product while they’re watching us and they’ve been fantastic in supporting us and we’re grateful for that.”
After trailing 2-1 after the opening 20 minutes, the Wings answered with three goals in the second.
Just as a Nashville penalty expired that carried over from the first period, Franzen went top shelf down low to record his seventh goal in the last seven games.
Two minutes and 30 seconds later, Eaves one-timed home a pass from Jordin Tootoo, who dragged the puck along the Predators’ blue line before backhanding a pass to his linemate to beat Mason.
Detroit’s third goal of the period came off a well-placed wrist shot by Datsyuk on the power play. Building up a head of steam at center ice after a drop pass by Henrik Zetterberg, Datsyuk let his wrister go just over the blue line to put the Wings up 4-2 with 46.5 seconds left in the period.
Abdelkader capped the evening, banging home a juicy rebound off the right pad of Mason to make it 5-2 Wings.
“We definitely needed every win and we’ve been playing well and that’s really important,” said Filppula, who registered his 100th as a Wing in the first period. “It’s been a tough spot for us, but we’ve been able to play pretty relaxed and with confidence so that’s a big thing.”
Nashville opened the scoring, taking advantage of two Wings without sticks which led to a 2-on-1 that Fisher finished off after a pass from Rich Clune less than two minutes into the game.
The puck got held in the Predators’ zone by Gustav Nyquist’s stick and then Jakub Kindl lost his at the blue line that forced him to trail the play.
Detroit tied things up five minutes later after some great work behind the Predators net by Daniel Cleary, who held off on playing a puck from his own high stick to continue play. Cleary fed a pass to Franzen, who in turn softly backhanded a pass to Filppula for his one-timer that beat Mason.
Smith put the Predators back on top five minutes later converting on one of the three power play chances they had in the first period. Smith was loose in front of Howard and picked up the loose puck off that Howard kicked out with his right pad.