Zetterberg helps Wings shake off poor start in comeback

It was the sixth career hat trick for Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — Sometimes coaches don’t have to say anything. They can just let the results speak for themselves and hope the team leaders take over.

So when the Red Wings came into the dressing room down 3-0 after the first period to the Buffalo Sabres, a team that had lost 10 straight games, Mike Babcock didn’t have to yell or throw things.

"Obviously we were embarrassed," Babcock said. "That was as bad as we’ve been. It wasn’t totally a surprise to me. This was a trap game. We’ve played two real good teams in a row and found ways to win. It’s a back to back, so you don’t have time to get in here and get organized and feeling good about yourself. You don’t prepare like you should. 

"You don’t compete like you should and the next thing you know, it’s the NHL, they’ve got real players and you’re down 3-0."

After the third goal, the Wings replaced starting goaltender Petr Mrazek with Thomas McCollum, who came up from the AHL when Jimmy Howard injured his groin Jan. 10 in Washington, D.C.

"Honestly, I think it was easier because I really didn’t have any time to think about it," McCollum said. "Honestly didn’t even see the third goal go in. I was looking down at the face-off sheet then I heard everybody kind of groan, and then Babs was telling me to go in. So I didn’t really have time to think about it. Just get your stuff and get out there. Make the best out of it."

Babcock juggled his lines, splitting up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Sabres took some penalties and the comeback was on.

Gustav Nyquist scored on the power play one minute into the second period, Drew Miller scored three minutes later and midway through the period, Tomas Tatar tied it.

"The biggest thing that happens in reality is not changing lines, it’s them coming in here and being upset with themselves and making the decision that they were going to play like Red Wings and getting out there and doing things right," Babcock said.

The Sabres couldn’t stop the onslaught once the Wings got going.

"We knew they were going to come out strong in the second after the first period we had," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said. "We didn’t answer the bell."

Once the Wings recovered in time to tie the game, it was up to the captain to lead the rest of the way.

Zetterberg led the Wings to a 6-4 victory with a hat trick in the third period, scoring on a rebound of Datsyuk’s shot, then on the power play and finally with 8:01 left for insurance after the Sabres cut the lead to 5-4.

"He’s the one that raises his voice here in the intermission, tells us we’re not good enough and he comes out and scores three and I’m assuming he had a couple assists too (just one), I don’t know how many points, obviously led the way for us and that’s what he does," Nyquist said. "We’re lucky to have him."

It was Zetterberg’s sixth career hat trick and first Wings hat trick at home since Zetterberg had one Feb. 1, 2013 against St. Louis.

"I think it’s been a while," Zetterberg said. "So it’s always nice to see the puck go in. I think obviously Abby (Justin Abdelkader) makes a really good job for me, standing in front of the goalie. I think Helmer (Darren Helm) was standing in front of the goalie on the second one. Nyquist was being in front of the goalie on my third one so it helps when the goalie doesn’t see the puck."

With his three goals and one assist, Zetterberg passed Norm Ullman for seventh on the Wings’ all-time scoring list. Ullman had 758 points and Zetterberg now has 761.

"Z’s had some opportunities lately and hasn’t buried them, so it’s great to see him wire it into the net," Babcock said. "It gives you confidence. When you’re a scorer, you like to score. It gives you energy. He’s got an off day (Monday) and he’ll be back Tuesday raring to go against the Wild."

The Wings improved to 7-3-1 when trailing after one.

"There’s not many games that we’ve played this year that we haven’t been in the games," Zetterberg said. "We showed that tonight again. Even though we dug ourselves a pretty big hole here from the start, we find a way to come back. It’s obviously nice to win it."

McCollum, who earned his first NHL win in relief, made seven saves on eight shots.

"There’s a lot of true professionals on this team," McCollum said. 

"There are a lot of great players and a lot of it came from Henrik. He really kind of told everybody what we needed to do and that’s why he’s the captain because we turned around, went out there and did it."

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