Recaps of last night’s NHL games, plus the latest on Thomas Vanek, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Martin, Shawn Thornton and more.

Backes (l) hit on Huskins led to a game-changing match penalty.

David Backes (l) hit on Kent Huskins led to a game-changing match penalty.

DETROIT NEWS/STLTODAY.COM: Three unanswered third period goals carried the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Henrik Zetterberg led the way with a five-point effort (3 G, 2A). The game turned on a controversial match penalty against Blues forward David Backes in the third period with the game tied at three, providing the springboard for the Wings victory.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every replay from every angle clearly showed Backes did not hit Red Wings defenseman Kent Huskins in the head. It was a clean hit to the center of mass, coming nowhere near Huskins’ head. At worst, it’s a borderline late hit, but not worthy of a match penalty.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/STARTRIBUNE.COM: Birthday boy Kyle Palmieri celebrated by scoring two goals to carry the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, whose top line of Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu didn’t generate its first shot on goal until the third period. Bobby Ryan (1G, 2A) and Teemu Selanne (3 assists) had three-point nights for the Ducks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Neutralizing the top line of a low-scoring team is always an effective key to victory. The Wild must get more offense beyond their first line if they’re to be a playoff contender this season.

WASHINGTON POST/PHILLY.COM: Third period goals by Troy Brouwer and Wojtek Wolski lifted the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the Capitals second win of the season. The loss was costly for the Flyers, as winger Wayne Simmonds was knocked out of the game, courtesy of an elbow to the face by the Capitals’ John Erskine, who could face supplemental discipline for the hit.

STAR-TELEGRAM/ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jaromir Jagr and Jamie Benn scored in the shootout, and Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves in regulation and overtime, to give the Dallas Stars a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Martin Hanzal scored twice for the Coyotes in a losing cause. Mike Smith made 21 saves for the Coyotes in his return from injury.

Recaps of the Ottawa-Carolina, Winnipeg-Tampa Bay and Vancouver-Chicago games can be found in “Canadian Corner”.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres winger Thomas Vanek, named as one of the league’s three stars for January, has been making it look easy so far this season.

DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has been placed on injured reserve with a concussion, while forward David Jones is day-to-day with a knee injury.

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Penguins defenseman Paul Martin is returning to the form which made him a steady blueline presence during his years with the New Jersey Devils.

BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins forward Shawn Thornton is out 7-10 days as a result of a concussion suffered in a fight with Buffalo Sabres enforcer John Scott.

KTAR: The possibility of the Phoenix Coyotes relocating to Seattle “isn’t likely”.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: February 1 marked the 20th anniversary of Gary Bettman taking over as NHL commissioner.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As one clever fan observed yesterday on Twitter, “What a glorious 18 years it’s been!”