COLUMBUS, Ohio - Another year, another 50 wins.
Pavel Datsyuk set up power-play goals by Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg and then scored a short-handed tally to lead the Detroit Red Wings past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Saturday night, giving the Red Wings their third consecutive season with at least 50 wins.
No NHL franchise has done that since Montreal did it four years in a row from 1975-79.
"That's impressive. You go through all the years of hockey, Scotty Bowman did it with Montreal in the '70s," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said, "but this is the cap world now. It's going to be hard to do."
Babcock noted that others around the league and in the media don't recognize what the Red Wings have accomplished, because they are so strong every year that it is taken for granted.
"We can't even get on NBC or TSN anymore (so) we must not be very good," he said, joking.
Asked if the Red Wings, with more wins and points (106) than anyone else in the league, should be the prohibitive favourite to win the Stanley Cup, Babcock bristled.
"I don't buy that for a second," he said. "Everyone is talking about San Jose and Anaheim, etc. I don't think anybody is talking about us at all."
Datsyuk posted assists Nos. 58 and 59 in a span of 3 1/2 minutes in the first period. With the Red Wings ahead 3-1 and five minutes remaining, he stole the puck and scored a short-handed goal.
He mimicked an announcer while describing his shot: "'He shoots! He scores!' I got to a 1-on-1 with the goalie and I had a good chance."
Johan Franzen also scored for Detroit, giving him 14 points in 10 games.
Rick Nash's 38th goal was the lone score for Columbus, whose 12 shots were the fewest at home in franchise history.
Dominik Hasek had 11 saves for the Red Wings. He gave up four goals on 10 shots in the Blue Jackets' 4-3 win at the same rink on Sunday.
"We controlled the game," Hasek said. "Not too many pucks went through the defence. They didn't even get good shots. All in all, it was one of the easiest games of the year."
Thirty seconds into a lengthy two-man advantage in the first period, Datsyuk ended up with the puck on the left wing, about 20 feet from sprawling goalie Fredrik Norrena. Rather than hurry a shot, he collected the puck, surveyed the ice and slid a pass to Lidstrom at the right point for a one-timer for his eighth of the season.
Later, Zetterberg carried the puck into the attacking zone and passed to Datsyuk in the right corner. Zetterberg continued skating and Datsyuk found him with a tape-to-tape pass for a quick jam shot.
"He had a lot of energy out there," Zetterberg said of Datsyuk after scoring his career-best 40th goal. "He creates a lot of offence for us. He's a lot of fun to have on your line."
After Nash scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, Franzen pushed the margin back to two goals when he redirected Chris Chelios' shot from near the blue line.
Babcock said this was easily the best team he's ever coached.
"Not even close," he said. "We don't have as many points as the team a couple of years ago, but we've got more depth, we're faster, we play harder and we have the will to win."
Notes: LW Thomas Holmstrom (abdominal strain), C Kris Draper (groin), RW Darren McCarty (ribs) and C Valtteri Filppula (groin) might return to the Red Wings within a week. RW Dan Cleary (jaw) is expected to play Tuesday at St. Louis. ... LW Alexandre Picard played his first game with the Blue Jackets since tearing two ligaments in a minor league game last April 13. ... Detroit outshot Columbus 4-2 on the Blue Jackets' five power plays.