Red Wings 5, Wild 4
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Detroit coach Mike Babcock couldn’t resist taking a lighthearted shot at Andreas Lilja after the defenseman’s first goal in 71 games.
“We’re relying heavily on him for offense,” Babcock said.
Lilja beat Minnesota goalie Dwayne Roloson with a slap shot midway through the third period to give Detroit a two-goal lead in its 5-4 victory Monday night.
“He’s good defensively, but tonight he made plays with the puck, which was nice to see,” Babcock said. “Sometimes as a defensive defenseman on an offensive team they always want you to do more than you’re capable of doing. His game has gotten much better with the puck.”
Lilja’s had not scored since Feb. 23, 2004, at Boston.
“Robert (Lang) just gave it me and I just tried to get it on net. (Steve) Yzerman was in front to cover the goalie,” Lilja said.
Yzerman, Lang and Mikael Samuelsson scored in the game’s first 10 minutes, and Henrik Zetterberg added a goal late in the opening period for Detroit, 7-1-1 in its last nine road games. Manny Legace replaced an ineffective Chris Osgood in the third period to get the win.
Marian Gaborik, Todd White and Andrei Zyuzin had second-period goals for Minnesota, and Filip Kuba completed the scoring with 5:49 remaining in the third. The Wild lost for the first time in five home games.
Yzerman opened the scoring on a power play at 4:19 of the first, knocking a rebound past Minnesota starter Manny Fernandez. Detroit, which has the NHL’s top-ranked power play, has scored with the man advantage in 15 straight games.
Lang scored on a one-timer from the slot 53 seconds later, Samuelsson made it 3-0 at 9:59, and Zetterberg scored on a wrist shot with 2:36 left in the period. The three were the first even-strength goals for Detroit in five games.
“It’s not like we hadn’t had tons of chances, we just weren’t finishing,” Babcock said. “The big thing we wanted to do was not panic and just keep doing what you are doing, get people to the net, work hard at it and let’s not be pressing. I thought we managed the puck well and made great plays in the middle of the ice and really came at them with some speed.”
Fernandez, who entered the game with a 1.99 goals against average and a league-best .930 save percentage, was pulled for Roloson after stopping 10 of 14 first-period shots. It was the first time this season Minnesota allowed four goals in a period.
“The move was made to try and get a spark,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “I thought if we changed the goalie maybe the other side would do something different or we would play a little harder.”
The Wild, which lost for the first time in 20 games this season when they scored at least four goals, had only four shots in the second period, but scored three times.
Gaborik scored on a breakaway at 3:53 and White and Zyuzin scored 58 seconds apart late in the period to put Osgood on the bench for the final period.
“We didn’t get our two points,” Wild center Brian Rolston said. “‘A’ for effort doesn’t mean a whole lot if you don’t get the win.”
In his first start in six games, Osgood stopped seven of 10 shots before being replaced.
“I was just relaxing and getting ready to go out to the bench for the third when (Babcock) came in with seven or eight minutes left in the intermission and made the move,” Legace said. “I was surprised.”
Zyuzin returned to the Minnesota lineup after missing two games because of facial cuts that required 50 stitches. He was checked-face first into the glass last Tuesday night. … Detroit is 12-11 in one-goal games; Minnesota 8-16. … Red Wings scoring leader Pavel Datsyuk was held without a point for the fourth straight game. … White has four goals in three games for Minnesota. … Detroit bumped an Inver Grove Heights mite team from its practice time Sunday. Babcock allowed the mites, their coaches and parents to watch the normally closed practice and the players signed autographs for the kids.