LOS ANGELES – Scoring on the road has been a perplexing issue this season for the Red Wings, who took an uncharacteristic five-game road losing streak into Staples Center Saturday afternoon. Prior to facing the Pacific Division-leading Kings, the Wings had struggled scoring goals, managing just five in the last five games away from Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s not like we haven’t worked,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But the results aren’t coming. We can all get down, or yell and scream and get mad at each other. But to me that’s a waste of time. We talked about it yesterday, about being resilient and keep coming.”
Resiliency was definitely the recipe that produced positive results for the Wings who put a stop to a few droughts Saturday as they cruised to a 4-1 victory – their first road win in more than a month. And it’s just the third time this season that they’ve scored at least three goals in a road game.
Center Pavel Datsyuk scored a pair of goals, including a power-play tally that ended a personal season-long dry run, and for the first time this year the Wings scored at least two power-play goals in back-to-back games.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall also scored a power-play tally that gave the Wings a second-period lead. Kronwall has been on a hot streak of late, collecting goals in five of the last seven games, including four of the last five.
There was plenty of good hard-working action early on with a few big hits, a couple of quality scoring chances, and stellar saves late in the period that kept the score knotted at 1-1 heading into the first intermission.
The Kings struck first, taking advantage of the game’s first power play. Unfortunately for the Wings, it was their power play that the Kings scored on when Mike Richards out-raced Jiri Hudler to a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated into the Wings’ zone before firing a low shot that caromed off the paddle of Jimmy Howard’s stick and between his legs.
“Huds has got to get in front of that guy and cut him off,” Babcock said. “Richards is real good short-handed, we all know that, and we have to be aware of that, but he just made a good play.”
It was the second straight game that the Wings had allowed a short-handed goal. But fortunately, the Wings responded quickly, tying the game on the same power play, when Datsyuk scored on a back-hand shot that beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Howard, who was dissatisfied with his performance Thursday in San Jose, redeemed himself as well when he came up with a pair of nifty saves late in the period, stopping Justin Williams on a one-timer from the low slot, and Jarret Stoll from in-between the circles. Howard gave the Wings a big lift when he stoned center Anze Kopitar on a second-period penalty shot.
Early in the second, the Wings benefited from a slashing penalty by Rob Scuderi, who gave Henrik Zetterberg a two-handed whack across the left wrist at 13:51. The Kings’ defenseman received a two-minute minor penalty, and Zetterberg was clearly in some discomfort immediately after the incident. The Wings’ payback came on the ensuing power play when Kronwall took a pass from Tomas Holmstrom and ripped a shot from the low slot past Quick for a 2-1 lead.
The Kings had a golden opportunity to tie the score, but Howard made a great save on Kopitar, who was awarded a penalty shot. Referee Kevin Pollock decided that Wings defenseman Brad Stuart somehow impeded Kopitar’s path. The call was certainly questionable since it appeared that Kopitar lost the puck off of his stick all on his own.
“I was surprised when I thought he was going to give me just two-minutes,” Stuart said. “He didn’t fall down, I didn’t hack him. I guess I just disrupted his shooting motion, I don’t know, which is what I think I’m trying to do.”
On the shot, Kopitar deked and went to the back hand trying to beat Howard to his glove side, but the Wings’ goalie snagged the puck out of the air to keep the score 2-1. Howard made 23 saves.
“Those are the equivalent to scoring goals for me,” said Howard, referring to the stop on Kopitar. “I enjoy those moments, and relish them. It just like that it’s one-on-one.
“I felt that I needed to respond for the guys. I didn’t have my best game the other night in San Jose and I knew it.”
Justin Abdelkader put the Wings up, 3-1, when he took a pass from Brendan Smith – who had just exited the penalty box – broke in on left wing and blasted a shot that beat Quick through the pads at 15:38. For Smith, who made his Wings debut Thursday in San Jose, the assist was his first career NHL point.
“Abby had the wide speed so I figured that he was the guy to have the puck, and I guess I made the right decision,” Smith said. “I’m pretty excited to get my first point like that. I mean, you’ll take any way you can get it. Plus it was a big goal for our team to go up 3-1, so I was pretty excited.”
Datsyuk collected his first two-goal game since last Feb. 17 in a win at Tamp Bay when he snapped a shot that glanced off a Kings’ defender and over Quick’s glove at 15:06 of the third period.
“It's only one game. I hope I keep going, I hope it's a start,” Datsyuk said. “When we win it's a good thing, this is more important. We play together, it's important.”