Igor Larionov scored a power-play goal and set up another and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom also had a goal and assist as the Red Wings held on for their seventh straight win over the Rangers, 3-2.
Detroit won the previous six meetings by a combined score of 32-8. They appeared set to cruise to another rout when Larionov and Lidstrom tallied in the opening 6 1/2 minutes of the first period.
"They kept hanging around," Legace said. "They have all that talent. If they get all on the same page, they can be scary. They have guys who can score. You can't relax against that hockey club."
Brendan Shanahan scored the other goal for Detroit, which has not lost to New York since January 30, 1999. The Red Wings extended their unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1) while improving to 6-1-3 in the last 10.
"Shanny stepped up tonight and said some things in the room," Legace said. "It's a great thing to see. He doesn't say a lot, but guys listen when he talks. That's the way it is with this team. That's this great veteran leadership. All Shanny did was give us a little vote of confidence."
The Rangers have lost seven of eight (1-6-0-1) and took little consolation in playing a competitive game with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
"We don't just want to play anyone tough, we want to win," New York right wing Matthew Barnaby said. "We're getting sick and tired of just playing people tough."
"A team like Detroit, you need to play your best game," center Bobby Holik added. "We played well, but we didn't play our best game. That's why we came up short."
The Red Wings wasted little time ending a three-game power-play drought. Just 4:21 into the first period, Larionov redirected Lidstrom's blast from the blue line past goaltender Mike Dunham for his third goal of the season.
Lidstrom doubled the lead just over two minutes later, beating a screened Dunham from the top of the slot off a turnover in the New York zone.
"We got a lot more opportunities tonight than we've had in previous games," Lidstrom said. "In the first period, we got some nice pressure on them. I thought we came out strong and had a great first period."
Malakhov halved the Rangers' deficit 85 seconds into the second period, ending a 76-game drought. He got the puck off a turnover by defenseman Maxim Kuznetsov and put a backhander past Legace, who was turned the wrong way after colliding with teammate Kirk Maltby.
New York had a chance to tie it midway through the period, but Billy Tibbetts whiffed on a rebound with Legace out of position.
Shanahan restored Detroit's two-goal lead 3 1/2 minutes into the third, finishing off a give-and-go with Larionov and scoring his 12th of the season.
Malakhov answered on the power play with 6:31 to play, beating Legace with a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle.
"We had chances to put them away, especially on the power play. If we could have got that fourth goal, it could have been over," Lidstrom said.