COLUMBUS, Ohio – In a chance-for-chance, toe-to-toe type of game, Detroit’s goalie and penalty-killing simply wouldn’t wilt.
Jimmy Howard stopped Jared Boll on a penalty shot and finished with 34 saves to help the Red Wings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Friday night in a fight for the Western Conference lead before a rare capacity crowd of 18,391 at Nationwide Arena.
Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula scored for Detroit, coming off their worst defeat of the season, a 5-1 loss at Atlanta on Wednesday night. The Red Wings killed all five Columbus power plays en route to their ninth victory in their last 12 games.
“Obviously your best penalty killer is your goaltender, but I thought our guys battled hard,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “As the game went on, I thought our penalty kill got stronger and stronger and we didn’t have to rely on Howard quite as much.”
Antoine Vermette scored midway through the third to spoil Howard’s shutout bid.
“Both goaltenders were outstanding,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “We had some great looks and Howard either got across or made a big save. (Detroit) scored the game-winner on a power play and we didn’t score on our (power play).”
Steve Mason was nearly as good as Howard, making 30 saves for Columbus, which entered with 14 wins, most in the conference.
The Blue Jackets’ Jakub Voracek missed a chance to tie it in the waning moments, but Brad Stuart barely beat him to a loose puck in the crease with Howard out of position, for maybe the only time in the game.
“It was a great battle between the goalies and between the teams,” said Howard, 6-0-1 against the Blue Jackets. “There were a lot of chances at both ends.”
The Blue Jackets, wearing their recently unveiled capital blue with antique white trim, cannon-crested third jersey, had their winning streak snapped at five—one short of tying the franchise record.
While the Blue Jackets weren’t opportunistic with their chances, the Red Wings didn’t have to think twice.
An indecisive play with the puck by Columbus defenceman Jan Hejda, who easily could have either shot the puck or dump it deep at the Detroit blue-line, instead had it stolen by Todd Bertuzzi, who went the other way on a 3-on-1 break.
Bertuzzi cut in along the right side and threaded a perfect cross-ice pass to Franzen, who buried a wrister past Mason for his 10th at 7:04 of the second.
Three minutes later Howard kept the lead intact, coolly standing pat to swallow Boll’s penalty shot.
“(Boll) lowered his head and was looking blocker,” Howard said. “The ice at that point, halfway through the second period wasn’t all that great. I had to figure he was going to come in and shoot.”
Filppula converted on a power play with his fifth at 8:06 of the third to give the Red Wings a two-goal cushion. Detroit finished 1 for 3 with the extra man.
Just 59 seconds later, the Blue Jackets’ R.J. Umberger stole the puck from Henrik Zetterberg behind the Red Wings’ goal, then slid a backhand centring pass to Boll. Howard made the initial stop but the rebound fell to Vermette who shovelled it home for his fifth. The assist for Umberger extended his franchise-best assists streak to eight games.
The opening period was scoreless, but was filled with near misses and spectacular saves by both goalies as Columbus outshot Detroit 13-12.
“We had great looks early in the game and if we could have buried one, maybe it would get them back on their heels a little bit,” Arniel said.
NOTES: Red Wings C Mike Modano left late in the second because of an upper-body injury and did not return. … The game was the first of a home-and-home set that wraps up Monday. … Columbus heads to Detroit with a league-best 8-1-0 road record. … Detroit had allowed at least four goals in its past three games.