DETROIT – Pavel Datsyuk looked fresh, not rusty, when he created chances on offence and took them away on defence as if he’d been playing all season.
Datsyuk had a goal, an assist and a game-high three takeaways after missing 19 games with a broken right wrist to help Detroit beat the New York Rangers 3-2 Monday night.
The Russian star, though, said he’s not back to full strength yet.
“I need more games, for sure,” Datsyuk said. “And, maybe more work out off ice.”
The Rangers almost spoiled Datsyuk’s feel-good story.
Brandon Dubinsky scored with 4:05 left in the game to pull the Rangers within a goal, and they had a two-man advantage for 44 seconds late in the third and were on the power play to end the game.
New York, which didn’t take advantage, hasn’t won in regulation since beating Toronto on Jan. 19 and is mired in its worst slump of the year with a five-game winless streak.
“This is our first major bump in the road,” coach John Tortorella said. “We’ve got to just stick with it.”
But Tortorella wasn’t ready to say if he’s going to stick with Martin Biron ahead of Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
Biron, making his second straight start in place of Lundqvist, stopped 32 shots and Tortorella said he had “no idea” if he would get a third straight shot in the lineup.
“I never talk about goaltending until the day of the game,” Tortorella said.
The Red Wings are glad they don’t have to talk about being a part of franchise history.
Datsyuk’s second-period goal allowed them to avoid getting shut out in three straight games for the first time—ever.
“You don’t want to be a part of that stuff,” said Drew Miller, whose goal ended up being the game-winning score. “We weren’t too worried about that.”
Detroit snapped out of a scoreless funk by scoring three times after getting blanked in back-to-back games.
Jimmy Howard stopped the first 32 shots he faced and finished with a season-high 45 saves for the Red Wings.
“I thought Howie was good, which is real important for us,” coach Mike Babcock said.
New York’s Derek Stepan tied the game one-all at the 3:09 mark of the final period and Jiri Hudler, with an assist from Datsyuk, put the Red Wings back ahead a couple minutes later.
Miller seemed to seal an easy victory when he scored with 5:23 left in the game, but Dubinsky scored about a minute later to put the outcome in doubt.
Former Red Wing Sean Avery drew two high-sticking penalties late in the game, getting hit in the face both times, but the Rangers couldn’t make it three-all and force overtime.
“We’re angry,” New York centre Brian Boyle said.
On the same night the Red Wings welcomed back Datsyuk, they lost another player when Valtteri Filppula was knocked out of the game with a lower-body injury.
“A little bump on his knee,” Babcock said. “We’re going to check him (Tuesday) and see where he’s at.”
It didn’t take long for the Red Wings to find out Datsyuk, one of their stars, is willing and able to help.
“We know how good he is offensively and defensively, so it gives our team a boost to have a world-class player like him back,” teammate Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It didn’t look like he had missed 19 games.
“He makes things happen with the puck and when the other team has it, he never gives up. He’ll work hard to get it back and that’s why he leads the league in takeaways every year.”
Notes: The Red Wings are 18-0-2 when leading after two periods, but barely held on for the latest such victory against the NHL’s best team when trailing after two periods. … New York’s Chris Drury (left knee) missed his second straight game. … Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom (hand injury) might be able to return to the lineup on Wednesday against Nashville. … The Rangers haven’t won at Joe Louis Arena since 1999.