DETROIT — The Red Wings have tunnel vision these days.
Whether they’re playing the best team in the league or the worst team in the league, whether they play well all game or just part of it, all the Wings care about right now is getting their points.
The Wings know if they take care of their own business, they don’t have to rely on other teams losing to get them into the playoffs.
On Friday night, the Wings were playing the Buffalo Sabres, a young team depleted by injuries.
The Wings came out hot, scoring three goals in the first period — Darren Helm got his 11th on a rebound at the net, Tomas Jurco got his seventh on a tip shot on the power play and Daniel Alfredsson got his 18th on a rebound.
The Wings managed to hang on for a 3-2 victory, their fourth straight, after the Sabres scored once in the second and again in the third.
"I think it’s the pressure, the time of the year, the magnitude of the game, being a game we can’t afford to lose, all those things combined, I think makes for us being cautious, more than playing hard for 60," Alfredsson said. "Before we feel like the underdog and feel like we can claw ourselves into games and find a way to win and (Friday) we’re the favorites and didn’t handle that as well as we can."
Wings coach Mike Babcock was pleased with the start but felt his team could have made it a little easier on itself.
"Suddenly we were dangling around with the puck and now we had the cute-itis going and then we didn’t want to shoot it in the net, we wanted to pass it one more time and the next thing you know it’s game on instead of just doing things simple and hard and right," Babcock said.
The Wings now have 88 points, which is all goaltender Jimmy Howard cared about.
"It doesn’t matter anything about stats right now, it’s just about getting two points, whether you win the game 1-0 or 7-6, it’s about getting two points and getting into the playoffs," Howard said.
Also helpful for Detroit toward that playoff goal was the fact that a couple of the teams trailing them lost. The Columbus Blue Jackets (85 points) were 3.9 seconds away from at least a point when the Chicago Blackhawks scored for a 4-3 win.
Jurco’s eyes lit up when he was told about the Blue Jackets’ loss.
"That’s awesome," Jurco said. "Finally some things are going our way. Almost half of the season it was going the wrong way with all those injuries so finally something goes great for us."
The New Jersey Devils passed the Washington Capitals, 82 points to 81, with a 2-1 win.
But the way this season has gone, the Wings are taking nothing for granted, not with five games left in the regular season.
"Obviously it was huge for the standings but we still have to get a few more wins here to get in," Gustav Nyquist said. "I feel that every time we win the other teams win, too. Everybody lost (Friday) which is nice to hear. They’re going to play for their lives in the last few games and we’re going to have to find a way to get a few more wins."
Babcock described it as good pressure.
"Pressure means you have an opportunity," Babcock said. "The reality is, is for us, we understand the situation we’re in. We look at the scoreboard every day. I saw Piet Van Zant six seconds after the game chalking up the two points, they thought they might disappear if he didn’t get them up quick.
"It’s important obviously, our guys know. But to me, and I don’t know what they’re like, this ain’t about the past, this is about this group in this room and that’s where the pressure comes from.
"We feel this group has an opportunity, let’s make good on it."