"We really needed a win," Zetterberg said. "We had a few bodies out. The guys that came out did a really good job."
Backup goalie MacDonald had 28 saves, keeping the Red Wings in it until their explosive offense got rolling.
"We battled back and tied the game, and then after that we kind of took over," said MacDonald, 7-1-1 this season behind No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard. "We got that third goal [from Zetterberg], a bad-angle one, and that's kind of how it goes."
The Blue Jackets' Derek MacKenzie took advantage of a Detroit mix-up in the neutral zone and sped by a defender to make it 2-1 at 2:13 of the third period. But 90 seconds later, Niklas Kronwallscored on what appeared to be an innocent shot. With the Red Wings on the power play, Kronwall skated through the left circle, and his backhander through traffic beat goalie Curtis Sanford.
"That was huge, obviously," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Kronner responded right away for us, which is really important. We answered back."
MacDonald saved the day by making a nice poke check and then blocking the puck with his left pad when the Blue Jackets' Ryan Russell was all alone on another short-handed attempt with the score tied at 2.
A short time later, Zetterberg unleashed a hard wrist shot from past the goal line near the left corner that slipped inside the near post behind Sanford for his 14th goal.
"I came in on a [odd-man] rush, and I couldn't really find a passing lane," Zetterberg said. "So there was a spot open there halfway up [the net], and I was lucky it went in."
The rout was on.
Jan Mursak scored his first of the season and second of his NHL career, spinning in the slot to score on a rebound at 9:15 to make it 4-2. Valtteri Filppula cleaned up a rebound with 6:08 left to finish the scoring and give the Red Wings four goals in around 10 minutes after falling behind.
"They're a dangerous team. They know how to play the game. They play the right way," interim Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "Their core guys have been together a long time. They have an identity the way they play. When they smell blood, they seem to kick it up."
Johan Franzen had a goal and two assists, and Zetterberg, Kronwall and Filppula each had an assist to go with their goals.
The Red Wings had dropped three in a row (0-2-1) and needed to turn things around. There was no better place to do that than Columbus, against a team they have manhandled 48-12-1-6 over the years. Detroit is 22-7-1-4 at Nationwide Arena.
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, who was on the block but not traded before Monday's NHL deadline, scored his 22nd goal.
Nash has been the focal point all week in Columbus after it was revealed by Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson on Monday that Nash had asked to be traded. When Nash was introduced before the game, fans responded with mostly cheers with a few boos mixed in.
"It was great. I'm honored. Like I said before, me and these fans have been through a lot," Nash said of the warm reception. "It honestly meant the world to me to hear that. I didn't know what to expect, but the fans are the classiest, most patient fans we have. I'm so impressed by them and so thankful."
With Detroit up 1-0, Nash muscled his way to the net on the power play. He put a shot on MacDonald before getting leveled from behind by Kronwall. Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart accidentally poked the puck in the net while trying to clear it.
The teams traded scoring chances the rest of the way until the Red Wings took over midway through the third period. Detroit is a dominant 26-3-2 at home, but improved to just 16-16-1 on the road.
"It's important to always stop the bleeding as fast as you can," Babcock said.
- Lidstrom sat out because of an injured ankle sustained against Colorado on Saturday. D Doug Janik was recalled from the AHL's Grand Rapids before the game. Datsyuk (knee) missed his fourth game in a row.
- Nash has goals in four of five games.
- D Jack Johnson, acquired in a trade with Los Angeles last week, made his home debut for the Blue Jackets. C Darryl Boyce, a waiver pickup from Toronto on Saturday, also played in his first game for Columbus.