DETROIT (AP) — Henrik Zetterberg had his best game since the Detroit Red Wings came off consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup finals.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock isn't ready to say Zetterberg can make the rebuilding team a championship contender just yet, but he said it's too early to count out the Red Wings because of Zetterberg and fellow star Pavel Datsyuk.
Zetterberg matched a career high with five points — including three goals. He then set up Datsyuk's tiebreaking goal after David Backes was called for a match penalty at 9:38 of third period to help Detroit beat the St. Louis Blues 5-3 on Friday night.
"I hear a lot about the things we don't have, but I don't know how many teams have Pav and Z," Babcock said. "And, that's a pretty good starting point for me.
"We're not going away here."
Detroit entered the season with predictions of its streak of 21 straight postseasons being in peril. Seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and net-front specialist Tomas Holmstrom both retired, and key players Brad Stuart and Jiri Hudler from last season are now playing elsewhere.
The Red Wings, though, showed they could skate and score with the talented Blues. St. Louis, which had won four straight, beat Detroit 6-0 in the opener.
"They just beat us like a rented mule," Babcock said, referring to the earlier meeting in St. Louis. "This was a good opportunity for us to respond."
Zetterberg and Datsyuk — the team's top forwards when it was a win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions in 2009 — led the way in a game that gave Detroit a measure of redemption against a rising power in the Central Division.
"It was a big win for us," Babcock said. "I believe it's going to give us a confidence boost, and we're going to keep getting better."
Zetterberg missed practice on Thursday — a day after the team didn't skate — because he wasn't feeling well.
"Sometimes it's nice to have two days off, especially with a schedule like this," he said. "I got a little extra rest, so I can't complain."
Zetterberg scored three goals for the fifth time in his career, and the first since Nov. 14, 2009, when he also had two assists to set a career high with five points against the Anaheim Ducks.
The captain scored with power, finesse and grit against the Blues.
Zetterberg's first goal was a one-timer on a power play, his second was a breakaway backhander, and the third showed just how much he wanted to win the game.
While Detroit was killing a power play in the final minutes, Zetterberg raced Blues center T.J. Oshie to a loose puck that was going toward the St. Louis net, took a hit from Oshie, and sprawled out to hack the puck into the net to seal the victory.