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Red Wings stay hot, beat Wild

Detroit center David Legwand (left) battles for the puck with Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday. The Wild lost 3-2. Brad Rempel / USA Today

ST. PAUL — With several star players injured, the Detroit Red Wings are having to rely on youth to guide them. And so far, that plan is working just fine.

On Saturday afternoon, center Gustav Nyquist’s recent hot streak continued, as his third-period goal helped the Red Wings win for the fourth time in their last five games.

Nyquist, who entered the season with just 40 NHL games to his credit, scored his fifth goal in the past four games by threading a shot over the glove of Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper to snap a third-period deadlock, and Detroit beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2.

“The young guys are playing more and more and starting to believe in themselves more and more,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who had 28 saves. “It’s a fun time of year because you’re seeing what we have and the future looks bright.”

Center David Legwand scored a power-play goal and set up another by defenseman Brendan Smith for Detroit (33-24-13) in the Wings’ only visit to Minnesota this season.

“I’ve been getting some pretty nice bounces and some deflections out there, and getting great passes too,” said Nyquist, who has an NHL-best 16 goals over the last 22 games. “I just try to put the puck on net as much as possible.”

The Wild (36-24-11) got a power-play goal from center Mikko Koivu, and a penalty shot goal from center Charlie Coyle, but they fell to 2-3-4 since the NHL trade deadline.

“It’s a matter of perspective, too,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo, spinning the numbers in his team’s favor as fears of a late-    season collapse swirl among the Minnesota fan base. “You could also say that we’ve (earned) a point in nine of our last 11 games. You could also say that was our first regulation loss in 11 games at home. You could also say that we’re 7-3-4 in our last 14 games.”

Koivu opened the scoring on a power play, taking a pass from defenseman Ryan Suter and lifting a harmless-looking shot on goal that fooled Howard, hitting the upper right corner of the net.

A few minutes later, with Suter in the penalty box, the Wings evened the score when Smith backhanded a rebound past Kuemper after the goalie had stopped the initial shot by Legwand. It was just the fourth goal of the season for Smith, but his third in Detroit’s past 10 games.

“For both teams, it was a muddy track,” Detroit coach Mike Babock said. “There was no room for either team. It was just check, check, check, check, check. We found a way to get it done.”

Legwand, who came home to his native Michigan in a trade with the Nashville Predators on March 5, gave the Wings a 2-1 lead with a power-play tap-in late in the second period.

Coyle tied it up early in the third. On a rush to the net, Coyle was hauled down by Detroit center Johan Franzen and awarded a penalty shot. Coyle scored on a backhand shot from the top of the crease to tie the score 2-2.

“I thought we were a little flat in the second period,” said Suter, who gave Detroit a hard look in free agency before signing with the Wild in the summer of 2012. “They’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of skill. Even with a lot of guys out, they have a lot of skill.”

Kuemper finished with 27 saves for Minnesota, which plays five of its next six games on the road.

  • The year began with promise for Wild C Charlie Coyle, who had seven points in Minnesota’s first nine games of 2014. Since then he has only a goal and an assist in 19 games.
  • Detroit D Niklas Kronwall left the game not five minutes after the opening faceoff after he collided headfirst with the end boards during a battle for a loose puck. He appeared unsteady on his skates as he was helped to the bench and headed to the locker room, but he returned later in the period.
  •  The first-period goal by Wild C Mikko Koivu, who became the franchise’s all-time scoring leader earlier in the week, gave the team captain 14 points in the last 15 games.
  • The cheers for Wings D Brendan Smith’s first-period goal were aided by a good contingent of Wisconsin Badger fans in the crowd. Smith’s alma mater played Ohio State on Saturday night in St. Paul for the Big Ten Tournament title.
  • The Wild and Red Wings will complete their home-and-home weekend with a game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit tonight.