Robert Lang could be the answer. Lang scored twice in the third period and Kris Draper had a short-handed goal to lead the Red Wings to a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night. The 35-year-old centre has had six seasons with 20 or more goals, including a career-high 32 with Pittsburgh in 2000-01.
"He's a guy who I think is one of the premier centres in this league. He can do everything," Detroit defenceman Mathieu Schneider said. "He's so strong on the puck, and in the big games he's always one of our best players. It's really his size and his strength, and he's learned to use it."
Detroit goalie Chris Osgood stopped 22 shots in his season debut after Dominik Hasek started the first four games.
"My job is to be ready to play when I'm asked, but I expect I'll play more as the season goes along because the games won't be as spread out as they are now," said Osgood, who helped Detroit win consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 1997 and 1998.
Forward Sean Avery scored for Los Angeles in the last minute of the first period and Dan Cloutier made 24 saves.
Lang, who played his first 149 NHL games with the Kings between 1992 and 1996, has 10 goals and seven assists in 16 career games against Los Angeles. He put Detroit ahead 2-1 early in the third period while Alexander Frolov was serving a delay-of-game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass. The goal came five seconds after Rob Blake returned from a tripping penalty.
Lang got the puck from Nicklas Lidstrom at the left of the crease, looked around like he was going to pass, then suddenly spun and whipped his first goal of the season between Cloutier's right foot and the post. It was only the Red Wings' third power-play goal in 27 attempts this season.
"I don't think tonight was one of our better efforts," Schneider said. "We were kind of scrambling through the neutral zone. We played well in spurts, but we were lucky to be able to come out with two points."
Lang scored again on a breakaway with 3:58 left in the game, beating Cloutier low to the glove side after Avery coughed up the puck to Mikael Samuelsson near the red-line.
"I don't think they dominated us, but they are opportunists and we gave them opportunities," Kings centre Craig Conroy said.
Avery opened the scoring during a goalmouth scramble with 45 seconds left in the first, after Osgood stopped a slap shot by Aaron Miller but failed to control the rebound. Draper tied it at 9:44 of the second period while teammate Jason Williams was serving a hooking penalty.
Johan Franzen carried the puck into the Kings' zone and was levelled with a clean open-ice hit by Blake - a split-second after getting the puck to Draper, who went in all alone on Cloutier and backhanded his 14th career short-handed goal through the goalie's legs.
"He made a great play," Schneider said of Franzen. "He kind of had his head down, and when a guy like Rob is out there, you've got to be aware of where he is all the time."
The Kings were outshot 27-23. The Red Wings had averaged 34.3 shots through their first four games, compared with 17.0 by their opponents. Los Angeles came in averaging 34.4 shots.
"We haven't been giving up too many shots," Osgood said. "We've been trying to play good defence and at the same time play good offensively. We're playing solid hockey from the first minute to the 60th minute."
Blake, whose 138 goals and 429 points with the Kings are the most by a defenceman in franchise history, has begun his second tour in Los Angeles with no points in his first six games.
Notes: Accompanying the Red Wings on their four-game road trip is Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, who coached Detroit to three Stanley Cup titles and is now in his fifth season as a consultant with the team. ... Draper is one of eight players left from the Red Wings' last Stanley Cup championship team in 2002. ... The Kings were 0-for-8 on the power play and are 5-for-53 with the man advantage altogether. ... The Kings, whose 78.7 penalty-killing percentage last season was the worst in the league, have allowed seven goals in 38 short-handed situations this season.