Wings set NHL record with 21 straight wins at home

LARRY LAGE AP Sports Writer Published:

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Red Wings were businesslike about breaking an NHL record with their 21st straight win at home.

The Red Wings tapped their gloves and sticks on goaltender Joey MacDonald after beating the Dallas Stars 3-1 Tuesday night as if it was just another victory.

Then, they skated toward center ice and raised their sticks to acknowledge the cheering fans -- a rare gesture -- before going back to their usual routine of working up another sweat with a postgame workout.

"It was nothing different in here after the game," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

Detroit's fans, and media that covers the franchise, has made a much bigger deal about the record than coach Mike Babcock or any of his players.

"I'm proud of the guys, they've worked hard -- and now let's get on with it," Babcock said.

Red-and-white clad fans, though, wanted to soak up the moment and celebrate a team they haven' seen lose at home in more than three months.

During the final minute of the latest win at Joe Louis Arena, the crowd showered the Red Wings with a standing ovation -- and chanted, "21! 21!"

"In the end when they were really cheering, before and after the buzzer went, it was a pretty cool feeling," forward Henrik Zetterberg said.

The Red Wings surpassed the single-season mark of 20 straight home wins set by Boston in the 1929-30 season and matched by Philadelphia in 1976.

They did it pretty easily against the Stars.

Zetterberg and Brad Stuart scored midway through the first period and Detroit coasted the rest of the game.

Detroit extended the streak with three wins in shootouts, which became a part of the league in 2005 after the lockout and has led some to downplay the significance of this record.

In the past, the Red Wings would've had to settle for ties and an unbeaten streak instead of a winning run.

"There's really no way to combat that argument," Stuart said. "But still, it's an incredible accomplishment regardless of what you're going to compare it to."

Since the shootout eliminated ties, the longest previous home winning streak was 14 by Boston during the 2008-09 season. Detroit's run began after a loss to Calgary on Nov. 3.

Adam Burish, who scored for Dallas, said what the Red Wings have done isn't watered down by the fact they have chances to win games that used to end in ties.

"I think it's harder than it was in the 70s, just because of the parity," Burish said. "There are no games where you can just show up and think you're going to win."

Detroit has an NHL-high 39 wins and 80 points, but the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers are just a point behind and have played three fewer games.

"Anytime you're in a race like we are, you need the points," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

The resurgent St. Louis Blues, steady Nashville Predators and talented Chicago Blackhawks won't make it easy for the Red Wings to win the Central Division, and top seeding in the West will likely be closely contested with the defending conference champion Vancouver Canucks.

That is why the Red Wings have been more focused on the standings than the streak.

"It's something we're going to cherish, but we've talked about getting more points to stay where we are in the standings," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

MacDonald made 20 saves, filling in again for the injured Jimmy Howard, and was 32.8 seconds away from his third NHL shutout.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots for the Stars.

The Red Wings' next two games are at home -- Friday against Nashville, and Sunday when they host San Jose. That will give them a chance to break another record by the Bruins.

Boston won 22 straight home games, spanning two seasons. The Bruins closed the 1929-30 season with 20 victories at home and then won its first two in Boston the following season.

"That's something I didn't know of, but we'll refocus again and go to work again for Friday," Lidstrom said.

The NBA's longest home winning streak in a season is 37, set by Chicago during the 1995-96 season. The 1978 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1988 Boston Red Sox both won 24 straight at home for baseball's longest single-season, home-winning streaks since 1919. The Miami Dolphins won 27 straight at home from 1971-74 for the NFL mark.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said before Tuesday's game that the team wouldn't make room for a banner in Joe Louis Arena's crowded rafters if a record was set against Dallas.

Holland said the club can hoist four banners each season for winning the Stanley Cup, the Presidents' Trophy, and Western Conference and Central Division titles.

Detroit hopes it doesn't follow the path of the last two teams to win 20 straight at home.

The Bruins eight-plus decades ago and the Flyers nearly 36 years ago were defending Stanley Cup champions and went on to lose in the finals.

Detroit essentially finished off Dallas in the first half of the opening period.

"We started on time," Babcock said. "I actually thought their goaltender was really good. Without him it could have been worse.

"If you can play with the lead, you're always a better team," Babcock said.

NOTES: The Red Wings are shooting for Howard to return on Sunday. Howard has missed six games with a broken right index finger. ... Dallas, which is not among the top eight teams in the West, has lost three straight after winning four of six.