COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Detroit Red Wings lost two more players. Then they lost a game.
Antoine Vermette had the only goal in the shootout and Steve Mason stopped all four shots he faced in the tiebreaker in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Friday night.
The Wings—already without mainstays Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano, Dan Cleary, Brad Stuart and Chris Osgood—lost frontline goalie Jimmy Howard to a bruised knee in the first period for at least a game. They’ll also miss Tomas Holmstrom, out for at least a month after breaking his hand.
“That’s just the way it goes sometimes,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You get injuries and you just have to fight through them.”
The win was badly needed by the Blue Jackets, who have floundered over the last seven weeks, going 7-14-3.
Vermette, shooting fourth, slid a backhander between the leg pads of third-string goalie Joey MacDonald.
“I saw a few guys go in with a shooting approach,” Vermette said. “I thought maybe I’d try something else and try to make the move side-to-side and open up his legs and slide it through the 5-hole.”
Johan Franzen then had a chance to continue the shootout, but his shot was turned aside by Mason, who had 26 saves in regulation and overtime.
Mason was solid all night against but was at his best in the shootout, stopping Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg before Franzen. The Red Wings have tormented Columbus since it came into the NHL. The Blue Jackets are just 16-35-9 in the series.
“Coming into the third period, the guys got back to playing like we did in the first,” Mason said. “We put the pressure on them and got the win, which was nice. It’s a big two points for us.”
Rick Nash, Kyle Wilson and Kristen Huselius failed to score for Columbus before Vermette’s goal.
Jake Voracek and Grant Clitsome scored in regulation for Columbus, which ended a five-game losing skid while collecting the 300th victory in franchise history.
“We wanted to stop the bleeding,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “We had to find a way to get back into the win column. That game wasn’t for the faint of heart.”
Drew Miller had a short-handed, 1-on-3 goal, and Jiri Hudler added the tying goal, both in the second period, for Detroit.
The first period was a disaster for the Red Wings, who had been given the previous two days to rest after returning from a four-game road trip.
Howard was untouched by another player as he blocked a shot by the Blue Jackets’ Derick Brassard with 7:17 left in the period. He leaned down with his blocker, his legs folded underneath him, and fell to the ice. He lay there for several minutes before he was gingerly helped to the dressing room.
MacDonald came on since Osgood, the backup, is already out due to a hernia. He held the Blue Jackets scoreless the rest of the way—until Vermette’s goal in the tiebreaker.
“(Vermette) just came down slow, kind of went across the ice and when they’re coming slow like that you’ve got to stay out (on) them,” MacDonald said. “He just pulled it over and stuck it through.”
He added, “Hey, when it gets to a shootout, you never know who’s going to win it.”
The guy with the game-winning goal couldn’t have been happier.
“It’s a hug win,” Vermette said. “Obviously, when you look at the standings it’s very important. But as far as our team trying to gain confidence and gain some momentum, this is exactly the game you want to play.”
NOTES: Seven of the last eight seven meetings have been decided by one goal. … Columbus is 300-380-102 in its 10 seasons. … Zetterberg had an 11-game points streak end.