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Red Wings make playoffs for 22nd consecutive season

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- In a game that Detroit had to win to secure a trip to the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs for a 22nd straight year, Henrik Zetterberg scored twice and added an assist and Jimmy Howard stopped all 17 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season as the Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 before a sellout crowd of 18,532 at American Airlines Center.

"Obviously, I'm proud of the guys," Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said. "I've been saying it for a long time, even when we were losing shootouts, that we were getting better, and now that we're better, we're going to face a really tough team in Anaheim. But we're excited about our opportunity, we thought we were getting better and the playoffs will tell us a lot about ourselves."

Zetterberg's first goal of the night, his 10th of the season, came with 1:43 left in the first period when a backhand pass deflected off the skate of Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski and landed in the back of the Dallas net to make it 1-0.

"Of course, it's nice to get the lead," Zetterberg said. "I think we created a ton of chances before that and they didn't go in. Their goalie made some good saves and of course it's nice to see that one go in."

The Red Wings captain then added a second goal, his 11th of the season, 1:57 into the third period. With Detroit short-handed, Zetterberg flipped a 14-foot backhand through the five-hole of Dallas backup goaltender Richard Bachman. The Stars were on the power play after Detroit's Brendan Smith earned a double-minor for roughing at the end of the second period.

Detroit then went ahead 3-0 at 6:30 of the third period when Jonathan Ericsson blistered a 33-foot wrister that Bachman never saw for his third goal of the season, with Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg assisting.

Datsyuk assisted on all three Detroit goals. Howard's shutout was the 15th of his career.

"We know it's a difficult game, because Dallas always plays good against us and today they started really well," Datsyuk said. "We needed the win and when we scored first, it took some of the pressure off us."

Detroit, which last missed the playoffs in the 1989-90 season, will be the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and face Anaheim in a first-round, best-of-seven series that likely will start Tuesday.

"I think the urgency was there (in the past week)," Howard said. "We knew what was at stake. We've been playing playoff hockey here for a while and for us to come into the last week and get the job done is really special."

Dallas has now missed the playoffs five consecutive seasons, with the Stars' last postseason appearance coming in the 2007-08 season when they fell in the Western Conference Finals to Detroit in six games.

"I think we played a very good team," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "They (Detroit) showed us why they haven't missed the playoffs in over 20 years. But I thought we battled hard. We know the game didn't matter for us but I don't think we gave up. That's one thing that we can be proud of, is the last month, we gave it everything we had but we came up short. It's very disappointing but at the same time we're very proud of how we handled everything."

The Stars finished with a five-game losing streak for the second straight season and the loss also ends a Dallas streak of 15 consecutive winning seasons.

"I look back at that San Jose game (on Tuesday) with five minutes left," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. "That was the one that hurt us a little bit. We went on a good run, but we were playing good teams in their buildings, but you can't fault the effort. Maybe a bounce in that San Jose game when we had chances to make it 3-1 made a difference but we're standing here today. We love the effort but we still have to move forward and get wins."

After a penalty-free first period, the penalty box was regularly occupied in the second. Dallas center Jamie Benn, a 2012 All-Star, drew the game's first penalty at 9:44 of the second after Detroit's Niklas Kronwall was deemed guilty of holding.

However, the power play lasted all of 16 seconds as Dallas' Erik Cole was whistled for interference after taking down Smith in the left faceoff circle at 10:10.

Benn drew a second penalty in the period at 11:37 when Smith received a minor for interference to put Dallas on the power play for a second time in the period.

With 4:59 remaining before the second intermission, Dallas winger Ryan Garbutt received a double-minor for high sticking after drawing blood from the face of Detroit's Joakim Andersson. However, the Stars were able to kill off the four-minute power play and keep it a one-goal game.

At the end of the second period, Smith received a double-minor for roughing after he and Dallas center Vernon Fiddler were involved in a confrontation on the Detroit end of the ice. Smith had taken exception to Fiddler taking down teammate Kyle Quincey and was hit with a penalty for retaliating.

Bachman stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced.

Detroit has now won four straight heading into the playoffs, giving them considerable momentum.

"You earn the right to feel good about yourself over a period of time," Babcock said. "We had a tough test tonight and I thought we stuck with it."

NOTES: Four Detroit players -- wingers Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Cleary, center Cory Emmerton and Kronwall -- played all 48 games of the regular season. ... Dallas had five players -- rookie defenseman Brenden Dillon, center Cody Eakin, wingers Loui Eriksson and Eric Nystrom and defenseman Stephane Robidas -- skate in all 48 games this season. ... Before the game, Dallas honored Benn and Loui Eriksson for being named to the Stars' 20th Anniversary Team, a group determined by a fan vote. ... The goal by Zetterberg late in the first period was his first in five games and just his second goal in his last 15 games. ... Howard started his 15th consecutive and 42nd game overall. ... Just three Dallas players, defensemen Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas plus wing Eriksson, remain with the club from the last time the Stars made the playoffs in 2007-08.
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