DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings showed the Columbus Blue Jackets that they still have some work to do.
Niklas Kronwall, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula and Danny Cleary scored to lead Detroit to a 4-2 win over Columbus on Sunday.
Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk each added two assists and Jimmy Howard made 27 saves for Detroit, which swept a weekend home-and-home series following a 2-1 win on Friday night in Columbus.
The Red Wings and Blue Jackets entered the weekend tied atop the Western Conference. The Red Wings now lead the conference with 32 points, while the Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks are tied for second with 28 each.
“We had two tough games going in there and winning by a goal and then coming back here and even though we scored late, empty-netter, two tough games,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “And I think they have improved as a team. They’re playing us real hard.”
Derick Brassard and Antoine Vermette scored, and Steve Mason stopped 38 shots for Columbus.
“They know how to win and that’s something we’re learning,” Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger said.
Detroit took a 2-1 lead with two goals in 14 seconds in the middle of the second period.
Kronwall tied it at 1 with 9:48 left in the period when he put in his own rebound from the crease for his fifth goal this season. Helm then beat Mason from the bottom of the right circle, after digging the puck out of the corner, for his second of the season with 9:34 remaining.
“I thought (Helm) did a real good job. He put it in behind their ‘D’ and went in and got it and the ‘D’ turned it over and he buried it,” Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock said. “That was a big swing in the game right there. I don’t know how quick it was but two goals in a very short period of time.”
That stretch ruined effective efforts by Columbus in the first and third periods.
“If we skate, we can hang with those guys. If we stop and watch, like we did in the second period, we’re in trouble,” Blue Jackets defenceman Mike Commodore said. “… Kind of a litmus test of how we’re doing. You lose two games, you fail. But we’re in there.”
Filppula made it 3-1 in the first minute of the third period when he put in a rebound for his sixth goal and second in two games.
“They both were really close games and they could have gone either way,” Filppula said. “Obviously happy that we came out with a win.”
The Red Wings killed of a two minute, two-man disadvantage during the middle portion of the third period.
“That was huge for us. If they scored a goal there, they’re still on the power play,” Lidstrom said. “We’re just trying to keep three guys low when the puck was low and bring them up when they had the puck at the blue line. We did block some good shots and Howie (Howard) came up big again with saves when we really needed him to.”
Vermette scored his sixth goal this season with 1:31 left after Mason was pulled for a 6-on-4 advantage to get the Blue Jackets within one, but Cleary scored into the empty net with 58 seconds left to clinch it for Detroit. It was Cleary’s tenth goal.
Brassard opened the scoring with only 43 seconds left in the first period when he tipped Anton Stralman’s shot from the right point out of mid-air and past Howard. It came with the teams playing 4-on-4 and was Brassard’s sixth goal.
Notes: Detroit played its first game without C Mike Modano, who had surgery to repair a severed tendon in his right wrist on Saturday. He suffered the injury in Friday night’s win over Columbus when the skate blade of a Blue Jackets’ player cut his wrist. Modano is expected to miss at least two months. … Former Red Wing Dino Ciccarelli, recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, attended the game. … Mason had to be attended to by the Columbus trainer 7:55 into the second period when he was accidentally high-sticked by Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, who received a goaltender interference penalty. … Commodore was helped off the ice with 8:11 left after being accidentally high-sticked in the face by Filppula, who received a double-minor for high-sticking. Commodore got stitches above his right eye and on the bridge of his nose and returned to the game late.