DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings power play finally came to life Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Coming in without a goal on 10 chances with the man advantage to begin the season, the Wings scored three times on the power play as they skated past the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2.
“I think that was the key to the game,” said Jimmy Howard, who made 32 saves in his fifth straight start to begin the season. “If we don’t convert on the power play like we did we probably don’t win the game. It was great to see that starting to click for us.”
Todd Bertuzzi, Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk each scored on the power play, while Henrik Zetterberg added two third period goals, one in an empty net.
Erik Gustafsson and Tye McGinn scored for the Flyers, while Ray Emery made 25 saves.
“We’ve had some good puck movement on the power play before during games, but haven’t been able to capitalize on it,” Howard said. “Tonight we were able to find the back of the net and that was huge for us.”
Detroit is now 18-1-2 in the last 21 games against Philadelphia at Joe Louis Arena, including the 1997 Cup finals.
Daniel Alfredsson also added three assists on the power play.
“That’s something we’ve been trying to work on here ever since the start of the season,” said Kronwall, who added two helpers on the power play. “There’s no panic in here. We know that we have some good people here and if we stick to the system and continue to believe in what we’re doing it’ll be a matter of time before it happens. Tonight we were able to get a few. We’ve had some decent looks last two games. We shot the puck, got it back and that way we were able to create some chances and we were able to score.”
Detroit was the last team in the league to connect on the power play this season.
Bertuzzi, who was added to the top line to skate with Zetterberg and Datsyuk, was credited by many of his teammates for his net-front presence that led to two of the Wings’ power play goals and another from Zetterberg.
“On Pav’s backhander and on my goal, I don’t think it was the heaviest shot, but the goalie didn’t see anything and Bert was in front,” Zetterberg said. “It’s good to see.”
“Bert I thought was all over the place,” Kronwall said. “He provided some great screens for us and that got us at least two of the goals. He was all over the ice, skating really hard and strong on the puck, creating chances and making them take penalties.”
Bertuzzi took advantage of the extra room behind the nets, picking up a loose puck and used a simple wraparound, chipping in just inside of Emery’s right pad to put the Wings up early in the first period.
“Bert just got it done on his own, I think it loosened the guys up and after that we were able to move the puck and get pucks back,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “So that was a real positive thing for us. You need your scorers to score to win games. But they got to get their confidence and in order to do that you got to score a little bit so this should be a good thing for us.”
Kronwall doubled the Wings’ lead with their second power play goal of the game.
After some nice puck movement, Alfredsson spotted Kronwall sneaking in from the point and using a screen provided by Bertuzzi he snapped a wrist shot top shelf.
The celebration didn’t last long as the Flyers cut their deficit in half 34 seconds later on a goal from Gustafsson.
More good puck movement led to Detroit’s third power play goal. It all started with passes on the blue line from Alfredsson to Kronwall, who spotted Datsyuk open in the slot and he buried a wicked wrist shot past Emery. Bertuzzi aided with another screen on the Flyers netminder.
“The big thing with Bert, as long as he gets to the net and he takes care of the puck then things will work out real good for him,” Babcock said. “I liked our lines. They hardly played their fourth line so I hardly played mine but I thought those guys were fine, too.”
McGinn got the Flyers’ deficit to one just over two minutes later, but Zetterberg potted his two goals to seal the win and snap the Wings’ two-game losing streak.