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Special teams key Red Wings' 2-1 win over Oilers

The SportsXchange

DETROIT - It was just the 11th game of the season for both the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers, but there's already urgency for playoff spots because of the NHL's condensed 48-game schedule this season.

The importance of specialty teams and goaltending was on display in Detroit's 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

All three goals came on the power play and the Red Wings, who were 2-for-7 with the extra man, killed seven of eight Oilers' power plays.

Detroit came into the game 26th in the NHL on the power play and 29th - next to last - in penalty killing.

"It was a tight game. PK overall did a good job tonight," Red Wings' captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "They got that one goal but other than that, they had a lot of opportunities but I think we played better than we did before."

Niklas Kronwall's third-period goal broke a tie and Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist. Zetterberg had two assists for Detroit (6-4-1) and Jimmy Howard made 23 saves.

Justin Schultz scored for Edmonton (4-4-3). Forty-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 28 shots in his first appearance of the season.

"Disappointed, of course, with our specialty teams, which has been very strong this season. Today, they deserted us," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said.

Kronwall's power-play goal at 6:08 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie. He got his first goal on a slap shot from the high slot with Chris VandeVelde in the penalty box for hooking Justin Abdelkader.

"Mule (Johan Franzen) once again did a great job in front, I finally was able to get one on the net," said Kronwall, who has nine points in his last 10 games. "We talked a lot about shooting the puck. Mule is going to be there all night long. The rest of us have to do a better job getting pucks in there.''

The Red Wings killed off a 1:07 two-man disadvantage early in the third period.

"They had a few chances, but we battled. We tried to keep the shots away, lots of blocks," Datsyuk said. "Our defenseman did lots of blocks and Jimmy today got lots of confidence and made it easy for us with lots of saves.

"We practice penalty kill every practice so it gets better in the game. We're picking up every day. It's hard to jump right back to the top, but we're taking it step by step."

Schultz and the Oilers know they blew a golden opportunity.

"We would have loved to capitalize on that," he said. "We just didn't click on the 5-on-3, We moved it better on the 5-on-4 than the 5-on-3."

His power-play goal tied the game at for Edmonton with 2:05 remaining in the middle period. The rookie defenseman's fourth goal came on a wrist shot from about 10 feet inside the Detroit blue line.

Zetterberg was in the penalty box for holding Corey Potter.

Datsyuk opened the scoring with a power play goal 8:33 into the second period. He stuffed a shot through Khabibulin's pads. Datyuk's fourth goal of the season came just after Detroit failed to score on a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity.

Khabibulin stopped Damien Brunner's tip attempt with 3:46 left in the second period.

It was Khabibulin's first game action in about nine months.

"I felt better than I thought I would," he said. "It's been a long time but they got a few shots early."

There was no scoring in the first period. Edmonton's Ben Eager hit the goal post with about 9:30 left in the period.

NOTES: Saturday was Hockey Day in Canada and the game was a part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's coverage. ... Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi didn't play because of back pain and Red Wings center Darren Helm has played only one game this season because of back issues. ... Wayne Gretzky, the NHL Hall of Famer and former Oilers great, told NHL.com that Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg is his favorite player of the last 10 years and that Zetterberg is the best Swedish player in NHL history. ... Edmonton center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned after missing a game because of an injured shoulder. ... Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry was born in Ann Arbor, grew up in suburban Detroit and played at Michigan State. Edmonton defenseman Corey Potter is from Lansing and also played at Michigan State. ...Kronwall's goal was his 50th in the NHL. ... Datsyuk's two points moved him into 7th place on the Red Wings all-time scoring list with 730 points.
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