DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings have put together their best streak of the lockout-shortened season, winning three straight in a span of four days that included the puck dropping twice in less than 24 hours.
Detroit defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 Sunday on a game-winning goal from Jonathan Ericsson with 5 seconds left—less than a minute after the defending Stanley Cup champions tied the game.
"I knew it was going to be ugly," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "But, I just wanted it to be an ugly win."
The Red Wings, coming off victories against Edmonton on Saturday afternoon and at St. Louis on Thursday night, were seconds away from settling for a point after Henrik Zetterberg set up goals for Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner in the first period.
Los Angeles, which got within a goal late in the first period on Anze Kopitar's goal, pulled goaltender Jonathan Quick to add an extra skater. Forward Kyle Clifford got off the bench in time to keep the puck in Detroit's end. Clifford's shot rebounded off Jimmy Howard and Alec Martinez scored on a putback to make it 2-all at the 19:07 mark of the third period.
With Quick back in, the Kings failed to clear the puck and Ericsson took advantage with a slap shot from above the right circle that trickled in for the win.
Ericsson refused to be hailed for the victory.
"We owe Jimmy this one," Ericsson said.
Howard made 45 saves, his highest total in more than a year.
"Every single night, points are at a premium," he said. "You have to get points to stay in the mix and stay in the playoff hunt."
The Kings have some work to do over their last 38 games to have a chance to defend their championship. They started the day among the Western Conference teams with the fewest points and have won only one of their last five games.
Kopitar, though, was more encouraged than discouraged by the latest loss.
"That was our best game of the year," he said. "Playing like that, you're going to win more times than not."
Los Angeles isn't dealing with a favourable schedule.
After raising the franchise's first Stanley Cup banner on Jan. 19, the Kings have played just two home games. They close a five-game trip on Monday night at St. Louis, return to Los Angeles for one game, then hit the road again for games in Chicago, Edmonton and Calgary. Los Angeles will play 13 of 16 games from Feb. 23 through March 23 at home, a stretch in which it may have to rally for a spot in the playoffs as it did last year en route to becoming the first eighth-seeded team to win an NHL title.
"I think we're a comfortable team on the road," Kings forward Dustin Brown insisted. "We showed that in the playoffs last year."
Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty tried to give his team a boost in Detroit by checking Datsyuk hard early in the first period. Datsyuk bounced back within a couple minutes to score on a wrist shot to the top right corner of the net.
"He was looking for an even up," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Brunner took a pass from Zetterberg and put Detroit up 2 late in the first period, scoring a team-high sixth goal on a sharp shot from the right circle.
Kopitar scored at the 19:19 mark of the second period.
"I think it was Kopie's best game of the year," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "He had some bounce in his game."
The Red Wings held onto the 2-1 lead because Howard made 23 saves in the scoreless second period.
"Howie stole that one for us, no doubt about that," Niklas Kronwall said.
The Red Wings gave up more shots (38) through two periods than they had in an entire game this season and that total also set a season high for the Kings. Los Angeles couldn't turn that into an advantage one game after being shut out 3-0 despite outshooting the Nashville Predators 32-14 on Thursday.
"Probably our best 60 minutes in a long time," Brown said. "Got to forget about the last 10 seconds."
NOTES: Zetterberg, who is among NHL scoring leaders, has 18 points in his 11 games and Brunner, who is among rookie leaders, has nine points in his 10 games. ... The Kings scratched Dustin Penner, Colin Fraser and Jake Muzzin. ... Babcock, a former Anaheim Ducks coach, was on the bench in his 750th NHL game and improved to 428-220-102. ... Sutter, who has coached 900-plus NHL games, has won 28 of his 437 games in Los Angeles. ... Kopitar has six points in his previous seven games. ... Detroit put goalie Joey MacDonald on waivers and plans to send him to the minors if he isn't claimed by Monday.