DETROIT – After clinching a playoff spot, the Detroit Red Wings needed two periods to get back up to speed against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tomas Holmstrom scored twice and Dan Cleary added a goal in a 1:16 span of the third period in Detroit’s 4-3 comeback victory over Columbus on Wednesday night. Niklas Kronwall had a goal and an assist, and Jimmy Howard made 21 saves for the Red Wings in their final home game of the regular season.
“They did that (relax) for the first 40 minutes,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “But they’ve got enough pride and leadership to get the win.”
Mike Blunden had a goal and an assist, R.J. Umberger, Sammy Pahlsson also scored, and Steve Mason stopped 31 shots for Columbus.
“They turned it on in the third period,” Blue Jackets defenceman Mike Commodore said. “Not a big surprise. It’s what they do.”
Holmstrom’s power-play goal tied it 2-2 at 8:05 of the third period. Henrik Zetterberg’s shot deflected in off Holmstrom’s skate.
Umberger then took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty because he was the most vehement of the Columbus players who argued that Holmstrom backed into the crease and into Mason.
“It was a screen in front of the net,” said Holmstrom, who has four goals and seven assists in his last eight games.
Commodore said the rugged Red Wings forward has been getting away with similar tactics for his entire career.
“He’s been doing that for 15 years, however long. He’s probably not going to change,” Commodore said.
It took only 40 seconds for Holmstrom to demonstrate more of his net-front skills as he deflected Nicklas Lidstrom’s one-time slap shot past Mason for Holmstrom’s 24th goal, also on the power play. Cleary capped the outburst with his 15th goal, on a wrist shot from the high slot, at 9:21.
“It’s good to get on a roll going into the playoffs. We just need to build off this,” Howard said. “Friday night (in Columbus) I think we need to stick to our game plan a little bit better, start playoff hockey and that’s getting the pucks in deep and just work them, throwing them to the net and getting dirty goals.”
Blunden brought the Blue Jackets within one with 9:47 left with his second goal.
“No one in this locker room is happy about our season,” he said. “We want to build on what we can for next season.”
Columbus led 2-1 after the first period.
Kronwall opened the scoring 2:32 into the game, beating Mason with a wrist shot from the high slot after taking a drop pass from Todd Bertuzzi.
Umberger tied it for the Blue Jackets at 8:58 with his 23rd goal. He intercepted Lidstrom’s pass in the neutral zone, headed into the Detroit zone, cut around Lidstrom and put a shot past Howard from the bottom of the right circle.
Pahlsson gave Columbus the lead with 1:28 left in the opening period. He picked up a loose puck and put it in from the inside edge of the left circle.
“It was really disappointing, especially the first period. We still got the first goal but we didn’t play good at all,” Holmstrom said. “We were coughing up pucks, I think we had 17 turnovers in the first period. Lucky we pulled this one out.”
NOTES: Columbus RW Rick Nash missed his second game because of a sore neck and back. … Red Wings’ RW Patrick Eaves has dual loyalties in the NCAA Frozen Four, which is being held at Detroit’s Ford Field this weekend. The field includes Boston College, where Eaves played, and Wisconsin, where his father, Mike Eaves, coaches. Eaves visited the practices of those teams during the day Wednesday. … Blue Jackets D Kris Russell returned after missing two games because of an arm/wrist injury. … Eaves and Russell fought with 4:27 left in the first period.