DETROIT -- No one needed to say anything. The Red Wings knew their past and knew what they had to do in the present to protect their future.
They delivered with a well-played 4-0 victory over Central Division rival Nashville on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, ending a five-game winless streak and earning a touch of swagger entering Sunday's home game against the Canucks.
Drew Miller, Tomas Tatar, Niklas Kronwall and Daniel Cleary scored, and Jimmy Howard made 33 saves for his first shutout of the season and 12th of his career.
"Shutouts -- they get credited to the goalie, but it's more of a team aspect," Howard said. "We need everyone pitching in for myself to go out there and get one. I think it's more of a team stat."
The Wings had pocketed just two points dating to their last victory two weeks ago. That imposed even more urgency on Saturday's game than usual; in this lock-out shortened season, and with a travel-heavy second half looming, the Wings knew they couldn't afford to sink too far out of the playoff picture.
"We didn't even have to say anything before the game, that's how much we understood the importance of it," Cleary said. "Where we were in the standings, where we were in terms of blowing 2-0 leads. I thought that Howie played great for us early, made some timely saves, and we didn't let up.
"Nashville played last night. They didn't have their full 'A' game, but we certainly played well, played good defensively, and got some timely scoring."
The usually impeccable Pekka Rinne looked human for a change. Howard, meanwhile, looked like he had something to prove.
Four nights after leaving the game in Nashville midway through the first period because of blurry vision, Howard was stellar throughout the opening 20 minutes, especially on a breakaway by Matt Halischuk and a rebound attempt by Colin Wilson.
"I thought Howie was really good early when the game was right on the line and they were better than us," coach Mike Babcock said. "He was good. Really good for him, but more importantly, good for us. We needed the win."
Babcock said Jonas Gustavsson will start Sunday against Vancouver.
Howard made a dozen saves in the first period while his teammates got nine shots on Rinne. One went in: Kronwall rifled a shot from the left point that bounced out to Miller, who took advantage of an out-of-position Rinne to slide the puck around and into an open net.
Tatar gave the Wings a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Linemate Joakim Andersson put in some hard work along the boards outbattling Jonathon Blum for the puck and then driving to the net. The puck popped loose, and Tatar quickly got it into his stick and lifted it into the net. Unlike previous games, the Wings didn't let up after grabbing a 2-0 lead. "Playing 60 minutes was our big key to the game," Miller said. "Playing a complete game."
The Wings didn't look sharp on an ensuing power play, looked very sharp on a later penalty kill, and looked like they were determined to win near the 16-minute mark, when Kronwall used Cleary as a screen to beat Rinne with a rising slap shot.
Howard denied Sergei Kostitsyn early in the third period after Kostitsyn trailed in a drop pass by Craig Smith. The Predators didn't offer much after that, and Cleary and Kronwall paired up to put the game away late in the third period, when Cleary deflected Kronwall's shot on a power play.
(c)2013 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services