The one thing Detroit Red Wings have learned that has led to their late-season surge

Detroit Free Press

MONTREAL — As they head into the last five games on their schedule, the Detroit Red Wings are injecting hope into the next season.

They have won four of their last five games, three of them against the sort of opponent they face Thursday in the Buffalo Sabres: A team with playoff positioning at stake. It’s where the Wings are grasping they could be, said David Perron after a three-point outing against the Canadiens.

“It keeps reminding me, and others I’m sure, if we had just won a couple games, a few more games,” Perron said after the 5-0 victory at Centre Bell. “You can think of the two Philly games, one St. Louis, maybe, and that’s only the last month or so.

“I think that’s something next year, we’ve got to get that feeling, that urgency, a little bit earlier, so that we remember how important every game is.”

The Canadiens had a decimated lineup, but the Wings didn’t take a victory for granted.

“I loved our game from start to finish,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in our zone, because we were getting defensive stops. More importantly, we were just connected — puck play out of our zone was great, and let to some good things. Ville looked sharp. Complete game. The guys are getting what they deserve, and that’s piling up a lot of wins here.”

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Ville Husso was back in net after missing two weeks with a lower-body injury. He has given his teammates a chance to win most of his 51 starts, and this play of late has been rewarding to see.

“We never give up,” he said. “We still try to get better every day and we are still coming. Even Toronto game, it was a big win there, and win today. Those are big for our group. You score five goals and keep it tight on defense, we did that.”

The Wings (35-33-9) had moved inside the playoff picture Feb. 23 after winning seven of eight games, but after seeing the team shellacked in back-to-back games at the Ottawa Senators, general manager Steve Yzerman followed through on plans and traded forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Oskar Sundqvist, and defenseman Filip Hronek. From March 2-25 they won just three times in 12 games, but the continued focus on building good habits eventually showed in recent results.

“I just think it’s been about us,” Lalonde said. “This recent stretch of wins here, it’s been about us playing the right way, getting in a little rhythm with our forward lines, and a little rhythm with our D pair. Getting great goaltending. I just like how clean our game was from start to finish. We played a really good game. It’s encouraging, very encouraging.

“We’ve talked about playing the right way, preaching these habits. The guys have bought in great, and that’s a really good sign going forward. This could have been a really tough stretch, especially where we were before the deadline, and we flipped our roster around. We could have went one of two ways and we went the correct way and the guys have been rewarded with some victories.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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