SUNRISE, Fla. -- The return of the captain made a difference for the Detroit Red Wings.
Left winger and team captain Henrik Zetterberg scored a goal and helped the Wings hold off the Florida Panthers 4-3 Saturday at the BB&T Center.
Detroit went 3-6-2 in 11 games without Zetterberg, who was out with a back injury.
"It was fun to play again," Zetterberg said. "I felt pretty good in my legs."
Saturday's tiebreaking goal was scored by defenseman Brendan Smith, who scored his first goal of the season after just 42 seconds elapsed in the third period. That made the score 3-2.
Center Gustav Nyquist added a needed insurance goal just 38 seconds later as he pounced on a rebound for his fifth marker of the season.
"I was just trying to get to the net as fast as possible," Nyquist said. "I got a little bit of a lucky bounce. It bounced right on my stick. It was an easy goal for me."
Panthers left winger Sean Bergenheim scored his second goal of the game and seventh of the season to draw Florida to within 4-3 with 15:33 left in the game.
But that was as close as it got for the Panthers, who suffered their third straight loss. Before that, they had won seven of eight.
Saturday's win went to goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who made 30 saves, including a couple of crucial ones in the final frantic seconds.
"I think we all did a good job together, especially at the end," said Gustavsson, who has been battling a groin injury. "I don't know how shots were blocked, but we just battled."
The loss went to Panthers goalie Tim Thomas, who made his return after missing six straight games due to a groin injury. Ironically, the previous two games he played -- Dec. 7 and Dec. 10 -- were wins over the Wings.
Detroit opened the scoring on right winger Daniel Alfredsson's 10th goal of the season, a power-play marker at 3:47 of the first period. The Wings got the man advantage when Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was penalized for hooking right winger Daniel Cleary.
Just 12 seconds later, defenseman Niklas Kronwall fed Alfredsson for his 22nd assist of the season.
The Wings' power play clicked again later in the first period when Zetterberg beat Thomas from the slot, shooting high to the glove slot.
There were just 16 seconds left in the power play when Detroit connected, capitalizing on defenseman Alex Petrovic's penalty for hooking Alfredsson.
That capped a frustrating first period for Florida, which outshot the Wings 12-7, outhit them 14-4 but trailed 2-0 due to an 0-for-3 power-play performance.
"You have to have a quick stick and lay the body," Panthers center Nick Bjugstad said of the Wings. "They are so skilled that they will get around you if you don't do at least one of those things."
The Panthers got a power-play goal with 12:52 left in the second period to cut Detroit's lead to 2-1. Defenseman Brian Campbell made a nice pass out in front to Bergenheim, who backhanded the puck past Gustavsson.
"That was an awesome pass," Bergenheim said. "I was going to the net, and I didn't know if he was going to shoot it or not."
Florida tied the score at 2 on an unassisted goal by Bjugstad with 14:59 left in the second period. It was the eighth goal of the season for Bjugstad, who got loose on a breakaway, faked a backhand shot and scored on his forehand.
"Even if you are two goals behind, that can't matter," Bergenheim said of Florida's rally. "You have to be mentally strong."
NOTES: Wings RW Justin Abdelkader (concussion) returned to the lineup after missing five games. ... Wings G Jimmy Howard (knee) is expected to return Monday after missing eight games. Wings C Darren Helm (shoulder), D Jonathan Ericsson (ribs) and LW Johan Franzen (concussion) are not as close to returning. ... The Panthers recalled D Alex Petrovic from the AHL to make up for the loss of D Erik Gudbranson (orbital bone surgery). ... C Drew Shore was recalled to replace LW Scottie Upshall (upper-body injury), who had been perhaps the hottest Panthers player before getting hurt. Shore's role will be penalty-killing and faceoffs on the fourth line. ... Panthers D prospect Ian McCoshen is currently playing for Team USA in a world junior championship in Sweden. ... Up next, the Wings are at Nashville on Monday. The Panthers play host to Montreal on Sunday.