Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52), defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55), center Henrik Zetterberg (40), left wing Justin Abdelkader (8), center Pavel Datsyuk (13), and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52) celebrate a goal against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center.(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
DALLAS (USA TODAY) -- Spring arrives, and the Detroit Red Wings leap forward into the playoffs.
So it has been since 1991, and so it is again this year. They secured the seventh spot in the Western Conference with a 3-0 victory tonight against the Stars at American Airlines Center.
The Wings will play the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in a series expected to begin Tuesday and continue Thursday at Anaheim, though those dates are not official.
It's the first time all season the Wings have won four games in a row.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has raised his game from superb to sublime this week, got the Red Wings a lead near the end of a fast-paced first period and built on it in the third period with another goal. Pavel Datsyuk assisted on both goals. Each ended up with three-point nights.
Jonathan Ericsson added a goal for good measure, using Justin Abdelkader as a screen. Jimmy Howard saw little action after a nine-save first period, making 17 saves total to earn his fifth shutout of the season.
The Stars didn't start their best goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, and they were without one of their top defensemen, Trevor Daley. The players who did take the ice, though, didn't play like a team ready to roll over, getting a handful of good shots on Howard in the opening minutes. The Red Wings kept pace at the other end, but one of their best chances went nowhere when Justin Abdelkader whiffed on an open net. Cory Emmerton saw his door-step attempt denied by Richard Bachman just past the halfway point. Howard had to make a couple of good saves on Jamie Benn, as neither side played well defensively.
After netting at least a pair of assists in each of the three home games this week, Zetterberg scored, not that he wasn't aiming for a teammate. Zetterberg was in the right corner behind Dallas' net, Brenden Dillon practically draped across Zetterberg's back, when Zetterberg swung the puck towards the crease. Abdelkader was in position for the redirect but the puck never got to him, as it went in off Alex Goligoski's skate.
The Wings left the first period with 18 shots on net and didn't slow as the second period got underway, not even when Niklas Kronwall got called for a penalty, as the penalty kill only lasted 26 seconds before being nullified by a call on Eric Cole. Brendan Smith got called for an overlapping penalty, too, but all that ended up happening was a long stretch that saw the Stars not get a single puck on Howard.
Gustav Nyquist drew a double high-sticking call on Ryan Garbutt, but the power play that has been so good all week for the Wings wasn't able establish much of a presence against the Stars, and the Wings entered the third period still protecting just a one-goal lead.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg changed that less than two minutes in, when Datsyuk fed Zetterberg, who raced up the middle, skipped a backhand shot into Dallas' net and booked the Wings a trip to Anaheim.
Helene St. James also writes for the Detroit Free Press