Tomas Holmstrom's goal 79 seconds from time earned Detroit a 2-1 win over Calgary and extended their lead over the Flames for the final Western Conference play-off berth to three points on Monday night. "It was a big win for our team," said Mike Babcock, the Red Wings coach. "Guys dug in today. It's not the play-offs but it's a big game for both teams.
"We'll get a day off and then we're really going to work for two days to get ready for a big push. That's what this is all about." Detroit's next game is on Friday against Edmonton, who are bottom of the NHL standings. Calgary took the lead less than two minutes into the first period through Craig Conroy's strike before Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk levelled the match with his fifth goal in his last six games, slamming home a wrist shot with 50 seconds remaining in the second period.
The game was heading for overtime until Holmstrom was able to redirect teammate Johan Franzen's shot past Miikka Kiprusoff, the Calgary goaltender, to leave the Flames crushed. "We've got to find ways to win games," said Brent Sutter, the Calgary coach, whose team beat the Red Wings 4-2 last week. "That's two games in a row now we've found ways to lose. Tonight we had a chance and never made the most of the opportunity."
"Every game against them is like a play-off game," Holmstrom added. "But we really needed this game and it was uphill pretty much from the first couple of shifts when they scored. It was a good, grinding 60 minutes from us." Detroit's penalty-killing continued as they stretched their shutout streak to six games without allowing a power-play goal, killing off 19 penalties during the span. "It was unbelievable, guys were getting sticks in the lane, they broke up passes, we collapsed down and didn't really give them much of anything," said Jimmy Howard, the Detroit goaltender.
"When the power play is constantly having to turn their back and go back and get the puck, it leaves them no time to get set up." Both teams have 13 games left, with St Louis sitting a further four points behind the Flames going into last night's game with the Colorado Avalanche. Detroit (34-23-12) are desperately trying to avoid missing out on the play-offs for the first time since the 1989-90 season.
The were Stanley Cup finalists last season, and champions in 2008. Elsewhere, David Clarkson claimed a goal and an assist as the New Jersey Devils scored three times in the first period to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2. The Devils shook off a loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday and improved to 3-0 against Boston, who currently hold the last play-off spot in the Eastern Conference.
They are a point ahead of the New York Rangers and with a game in hand. "We did a great job battling back," said Shawn Thornton, the Boston forward. "We didn't hang our heads, like you might have witnessed earlier in the year. That's a positive, but there are only 14 games left. "Points are at a premium. Almost good enough isn't good enough." Meanwhile, the Devils are locked in a race with Pittsburgh for the Atlantic division title.
"We've got to come out and play the same way," Clarkson said. "We've got to be playing play-off hockey every night." * With agencies