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DETROIT — Mired in a scoring slump for a stretch of 11 days, Damien Brunner likely felt some sort of urgency.
Not just because it’s the final week of the NHL’s strike-shortened regular season, and not just because the Detroit Red Wings’ leading rookie scorer had been held to one point in his last five games.
In the final days of the season, the Red Wings are in survival mode, and right now are looking at playoff qualification from the outside. Monday night at Joe Louis Arena, a palpable sense of urgency trickled through the Red Wings in a 4-0 win against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Brunner paced the Red Wings with a goal and an assist in the first period, while Johan Franzen scored two goals. Both helped pace the Red Wings against Phoenix, another team that came into the final week of the regular season in desperation mode.
“He considers himself a scorer, and [he] hadn’t scored in a while,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Brunner, whose last goal came April 1 against Colorado and who missed three games with a hip flexor. “So I think that’s a real positive thing.”
The Red Wings entered the week on the bubble for the playoffs. After Monday’s win, the Red Wings are in ninth place in the Western Conference with 50 points, two points ahead of Dallas (48 points), four points ahead of Phoenix (46 points) and one point behind Minnesota and Columbus (51 points each), both of whom were idle Monday night.
“It’s playoff hockey, and it’s going to be like that for the rest of the year,” said Henrik Zetterberg, who had three assists for the Red Wings. “It’s been like that for probably the last five or six games, so it’s a good experience for a lot of guys who haven’t been in the playoffs, to get that experience.”
Detroit has three regular-season games remaining, and the top eight teams in the Western Conference qualify for the playoffs, which begin April 30.
If Detroit misses the playoffs, it would end a stretch of 21 seasons in which the Red Wings have qualified for the postseason.
“Like I’ve been saying for a while, there’s no panic,” said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 34 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. “There hasn’t been a panic. But we know there’s urgency, and we’ve got to play with urgency, and that’s how we did that from the drop of the puck.”
Despite being outshot 12-4 in the first period, Detroit took advantage of the man-advantage. The Red Wings scored three power-play goals in the first two periods and finished 3 for 5 on the power play.
Franzen redirected Brunner’s shot from the right point past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, a power-play goal that gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead 2 minutes, 37 seconds into the game. Detroit took a 2-0 lead with 35.4 seconds left in the first on the power play when Brunner tipped Zetterberg’s shot from the left point past Smith, who made 22 saves.
“Who knows why?” Babcock said when asked about his team’s power-play efficiency. “But they knew it was a big game and they had to produce, and they did.”
The Red Wings killed off a pair of tripping penalties against Daniel Cleary in the first six minutes of the second, then took a 3-0 lead on the Coyotes when Valtteri Filppula’s power-play goal gave Detroit a 3-0 lead with less than four minutes left in the period.
Less than two minutes later, Howard’s shutout bid stayed alive when Phoenix right wing David Moss was unable to settle and redirect David Schlemko’s cross-crease pass into the goal, and Franzen added an empty-net goal with 1:22 left in the third.
“It feels like a playoff-type game out there,” Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader said. “The intensity’s high and obviously we know what’s on the line. We got two points behind us. It was an intense game out there and both teams wanted points. I thought it was good for us to come off a road trip and have a game like this.”
TRIBUTE TO BOSTON: Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle, a Boston native, sported a practice jersey during the weekend that read “MARTIN RICHARD 8” — a tribute to the 8-year-old boy who was one of three victims of last week’s bombing at the Boston Marathon.
Yandle also wrote a message on the inside of his right skate: “Pray for Boston.”
EYE ON THE SCOREBOARD: The Red Wings are idle today, but the next five days will have playoff implications for four Western Conference teams — including Detroit.
Detroit concludes its home schedule with two games this week — Wednesday against Los Angeles and Thursday against Nashville — then closes the regular season Saturday at Dallas.
Dallas was idle on Monday, but plays today at San Jose, Thursday at home against Columbus, and Saturday against Detroit.
Minnesota is tied for seventh with Columbus and hosts Los Angeles today and Edmonton on Wednesday, then closes the regular season Saturday at Colorado; Columbus’ final two regular-season games are Thursday at Dallas and Saturday at home against Nashville.
The top eight teams in both conferences qualify for the playoffs.
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