ANAHEIM, Calif. – There’s something about playing the Anaheim Ducks that seems to bring out the best in Jimmy Howard and Johan Franzen.
Howard made a season-high 41 saves for his fifth NHL shutout and Franzen scored on Detroit’s first shot of the game, leading the Red Wings to a 4-0 victory Friday night. The shutout was the second this season for Howard, including a 4-0 win over the Ducks on opening night at Detroit.
“They came at us hard all night. They just threw pucks at the net from everywhere,” Howard said. “I felt good out there and I’ve felt that way for a while. I think it’s just confidence building off of last year. I feel I have the confidence of my teammates when I’m playing, and that makes it a lot easier. I’m not doing anything special out there. I’m just trying to get in the way of the puck.”
This was the ninth time this season that Howard faced 30 or more shots, but he doesn’t mind at all. Detroit’s record in those games is 7-2.
“For a goalie, it’s a lot easier this way because you get into a rhythm,” Howard said. “Sometimes our team is so good at controlling the play, you sort of become a spectator down at the other end and you have to find a way to keep your mind into it. So when you’re getting lots of work, it’s easier to stay in the game.”
Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula also scored for the Western Conference-leading Red Wings, who won their fourth in a row and ninth in 11 games to take a five-point lead over Dallas and Vancouver.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak by the Ducks, who were held to fewer than three goals for the seventh time in their last 10 contests. Jonas Hiller made 25 saves.
Franzen opened the scoring 69 seconds after the opening faceoff after a sloppy turnover by defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky in the Anaheim zone. Filppula missed Franzen with a cross-ice pass, but Franzen played the carom off the left-corner boards and scored his 11th goal on a one-timer to the glove side as Visnovsky screened Hiller.
“I didn’t actually see the puck,” Hiller said. “It was a bad turnover in our zone that led to the whole thing. It’s tough to be down that early the game, especially against a team that plays such solid defence as Detroit does.”
The last time the Red Wings were at Anaheim back in February, Hiller made 46 saves in a 3-1 victory after the Ducks scored on their first shot against Howard.
Franzen has a goal in each of his last seven regular-season games against the Ducks. He missed all four meetings with them last season because of a knee injury that sidelined him for 55 games.
“When you look at the way that Mule can play when he’s at his best, I don’t think he’s at that level yet this year,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I mean, he’s always going to score. But when he’s really going, he’s all over the puck and he makes good plays. Obviously, he missed a ton of time last year, but his game has been evolving again since coming back from that injury, and it takes time. But that line has been a good line for us—and on a lot of nights, it’s our best line.”
Holmstrom made it 2-0 at 14:02 of the second with his seventh goal and first on the road. It came on a rebound of a backhander by Henrik Zetterberg, whose assist was his 500th NHL point. Anaheim’s Corey Perry was so frustrated over his failure to clear the rebound, he cross-checked Holmstrom from behind and Zetterberg returned the favour by smacking Perry in the back of the net. But no penalties were called.
“It’s frustrating,” Perry said. “We had a couple of turnovers, a couple of mental lapses, and we’re down 2-0. We battled hard tonight, and had a great work ethic, but we just couldn’t find a way to get the puck past Howard.”
Cleary added his 12th goal late in the period on a screened one-timer after another turnover by the Ducks.
Babcock expects to have two familiar faces back in uniform Saturday night at Los Angeles, with goalie Chris Osgood starting for the first time since Oct. 30 after sitting out 13 games with a groin pull and centre Kris Draper making his season debut after missing 23 games because of a groin injury and a sports hernia that required surgery.
NOTES: Detroit got its only power-play opportunity after Jason Blake was sent off for roughing with 14:15 remaining. The Ducks were 0 for 3 with the man advantage. … Babcock, who coached Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003, is 21-14-1 against them since taking the Detroit job in 2005—including a 6-7 mark in the post-season.