DETROIT (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Gustav Nyquist's good night put the Detroit Red Wings in a little better standing.
Nyquist demonstrated just how skilled a player he is with a pair of goals tonight at Joe Louis Arena, pushing the Wings past the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, and resuscitating the playoff push. The Wings were helped by Carolina beating Columbus, less so by the New York Rangers dismantling Ottawa.
Daniel Alfredsson, who used to regularly torture Toronto during 17 seasons with Ottawa, scored a huge goal with minutes to spare, sending the puck between James Reimer's legs. James van Riemsdyk scored with 1:13 remaining.
It was only Detroit's second victory the last five games. They continued a disturbing and farcical trend of losing a player per game, this night seeing top-pair defenseman Jonathan Ericsson depart after the second period because of a broken finger. The massive injury list numbers 10, a big reason behind Detroit's remains chasing a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The need for points magnified after the Wings went 1-3 last week, losing players as they lost games. Tonight's fourth lined featured two new faces, in rookie Landon Ferraro, and defenseman Brendan Smith, who played left wing.
The game's matched the spirit of the fans, many of whom were Toronto fans chanting for their team early and often. The Wings looked far better than two nights earlier in Chicago, zooming through the neutral zone and getting chances on Reimer. He let one in himself 13 minutes into the first period, making the initial save on a breakaway by Nyquist only to see the puck slide in off Reimer's stick.
Jimmy Howard had another good period, making a stop on van Riemsdyk during a Toronto power play and reacting quickly after a turnover in Detroit's zone.
Good work by Riley Sheahan driving in from the wall created a fantastic chance for Nyquist in the opening shift of the second period, but he couldn't managed to get the puck past Reimer on two straight tries. A power play earned after a nasty hit from behind by Tim Gleason didn't yield much in the way of offense, nor did the next one, Detroit's fourth of the game. After a slow start to the second period, the Leafs came on strong in the second half. Phil Kessel did have a beauty of a shot stopped by Howard as he awkwardly gloved the puck. Kessel -- who'd also had a chance at the end of the first period -- buzzed Howard again late in the second, coming in from the right circle and then trying for the loose puck at the other side.
Nyquist's goal 2 minutes into the third period, when he used a turnover and his speed to bang the puck in off the far goalpost, but the Leafs pressed away and were rewarded with a power play goal at 8:24, when Jake Gardiner picked up a rebound off the end boards and deked to his forehand. The Leafs put the puck in Detroit's net on their next power play again, but officials ruled Nazen Kadri had made a distinct kicking motion and the Wings kept their lead.
Contact Helene St. James: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.