Detroit – As the games go by, you keep sensing something is brewing with the Red Wings.
The wins keep piling up, the confidence is growing and who knows where this will ultimately end up?
The Wings kept rolling Thursday, never mind returning from a lengthy road trip, or playing an elite New York Rangers team. The Wings won 4-1 and moved into the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Wings (28-21-8, 64 points) moved past idle Florida also has 64 points but have played three more games than the Wings.
“We’re over the cut line right now, that’s what it means to us,” said Andrew Copp, of the importance of Thursday’s victory.
Copp, who had a goal and two assists against his former Rangers teammates, feels the Wings are understanding what needs to be done to be successful.
“We’re understanding how to play the game,” Copp said. “We get leads we’re playing pretty mature. We’re not forcing plays to the middle, not getting guys up in the rush. We’re playing pretty solid right now.
“That’s our recipe. We have to be real strong defensively, special teams have been rolling pretty good and this guy (Ville Husso) has been pretty good too. That’s our recipe and being hard to play against and not giving them a lot of time and space.
“We’re finding our recipe at an important time of the year.”
The victory was the Wings’ seventh in their last eight games, as they’ve surged after the All-Star break into the thicky of the playoff picture.
It was another impressive showing by the Wings Thursday, after returning from a long West Coast to East Coast swing.
“It’s not easy after a long road trip,” said goaltender Ville Husso, who stopped 30 shots. “We did a good job in Washington coming from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast and playing a game there, and coming home and we were ready to play.”
Copp, Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Hronek (power play) had Wings goals. David Perron had two assists and Copp each had two assists and Rasmussen one, as the line dominated the scoresheet.
Rasmussen’s goal was his 10th, giving the Wings seven players with at least 10 goals.
“You go on a run like this and you’re finding ways to win every night,” Lalonde said. “It’s usually contributions from everyone and Sutes (Pius Suter) was that guy the last couple of game and you could tell early on they (the Copp line) had some jump. Those three really like playing with each other and they’re predictable for each other, they have an identity.”
Vincent Trocheck had the lone Rangers (33-16-9) goal.
Zadina gave the Wings the lead for good with his second goal, at 8 minutes 18 seconds of the second period.
Larkin swiped a puck along the wall, and pushed a pass to Zadina up ice. Zadina snapped a shot past goaltender Jaroslav Halak, Zadina’s third consecutive game with a point, and after being a healthy scratch Tuesday in Washington.
Lalonde made a point of saying Tuesday, and again before Thursday’s game, it was important to get Zadina back in the lineup.
“I’m more excited about him pitching in connected with our five-on-five (play),” Lalonde said. “With his tools he’s going to put himself in some of those situations and you want him to cash in and he did that. That was a huge goal. We had a couple of real good shifts and all of a sudden we blow it up and it ends up in the back of our net.
“We needed that goal momentum wise.”
Lalonde scratched Jonatan Berggren, while keeping Jakub Vrana in the lineup for the second consecutive game. Vrana played 12:31 on 13 shifts, with no shots and a minus-one rating.
The Wings are showing signs of experience of being in tight, important games and earning points in them.
“Maturity,” said Lalonde, of what he’s seeing. “Being in those situations more and more and we talk about it. I saw a stat that shocked me that we were 19-0-2 leading after two periods. Most teams, that’s what it looks like, that’s all I knew in Tampa. When we went from good to great, we figured out some of those moments, and having a little experience in some of those moments and handling it properly, we weren’t great in some moments tonight but Villie was there when we needed him and he was real sharp.”