It was just one play, just one goal in the regular-season finale, but it was more than that. It was the moment that defined the Red Wings' rush back to the playoffs, more fitting than fancy.

Henrik Zetterberg wanted the puck badly and went and got it, then was knocked to his knees and got it again. Seconds later, it was in the Stars net, a carom off a skate, a seemingly random act that really wasn't random at all.

The Red Wings went after this as if more than their streak was at stake. Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk went after it as hard as anyone, and therein lies the key to Detroit's chances as it enters the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season, the first time as a No. 7 seed. The Red Wings open against the Ducks tonight only vaguely resembling the mistake-prone team that began the shortened season.

The Red Wings have been playing their best hockey for a couple of weeks, and now get to be the feisty upstart for a change, which has its good and bad points. The good is, they were able to tighten their defense in taut, playoff-like games. The bad is, they were forced to tighten their defense because they've struggled to score.

"Of all the years I've been here, it's by far the biggest growth we've ever had in one year by a team," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We stayed positive, kept grinding, and our leaders kept believing and were very determined. They didn't let anyone off the hook, and that's why we're here. We're real proud of the group, and I think we can do some damage."