The Red Wings demonstrated their “driver’s seat” mentality again and steered themselves right back into the playoff picture.

Winning for the second time in three nights, they dispatched the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, 3-1, tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The Nashville Predators await Thursday night in the regular-season home finale.

The victory pushed the Wings to 52 points and past Columbus into eighth place in the Western Conference. Detroit also reached more ROWs (Regulation or Overtime Wins) at 20 than Columbus can achieve even if the Blue Jackets win their remaining two games. Columbus plays at Dallas Thursday night and hosts Nashville on Saturday, the same night Detroit plays at Dallas.

The Wings are trying to extend a 21-season playoff streak.

“We believe in what we have, in what we do,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We believe if we just stick with the game plan and play the way we want to play, we’ve got a pretty good thing going here.”

The Wings won their latest thanks to big performances from their stars and their support players. Pavel Datsyuk scored what for him was just a typical, ho-hum goal. Captain Henrik Zetterberg picked up two assists to give him five his last two games. Johan Franzen scored an insurance goal that gave him six goals in his last six games. Franzen didn’t finish the third because of an undisclosed injury, and his status for tonight was uncertain.

“I thought we had good players right through,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought our back end in particular really moved the puck.”

Fourth-liner Jordin Tootoo netted the game-winner when he broke a third-period tie.

“He works extremely hard out there,” Jimmy Howard said after making 23 saves. “He’s an energy guy. He’s not afraid to go out there and mix it up. It’s good to see him get rewarded.”