Early scoring and another outstanding performance from Jimmy Howard kept the Detroit Red Wings victorious.
They came away from Joe Louis Arena Thursday with a 3-1 final over the Canucks, winning for the second time in a row after a five-game skid. Howard contributed 36 saves.
“We relied way too much on Howie,” Wings center Steve Ott said. “He was phenomenal again for us.”
The Wings were prone to the turnovers that have plagued them most of the season, but first-period goals from Dylan Larkin and Brendan Smith, and an insurance goal from Ott, helped offset mistakes. The Wings also were short a man after the first period, as Andreas Athanasiou left with a lower-body injury that will sideline him at least through the weekend.
“Through large stretches of the game, we weren't good enough,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “With that said, they do a good job. They play hard. But I didn’t think we broke the puck out well enough and I didn’t think we got pucks behind them well enough. As a result, we didn’t have the puck enough.”
The Canucks had a 37-27 advantage in shots.
“Howard saves us again,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We had a good start, got the goal early, but then we started to play a little too cute. We let them back in the game. Little bit too stubborn with turnovers again.”
Ott scored late in the third period when he tipped Jonathan Ericsson’s shot. It was his first goal since joining the Wings.
“It feels great being able to chip in,” Ott said. “It’s one of those goals that helps you push the game along. It’s a big character win for two points for this team.”
Fans were back on their feet to cheer minutes later, for a Canucks player, no less. But there was nothing else to do after goaltender Ryan Miller caught Zetterberg’s shot while doing a fast belly slide across the ice.
“That will probably make the highlights for a bit,” Zetterberg said.
Howard called it “awesome. Even I was giving him stick-taps for that.”
Recognizing Miller’s amazing save was easier given the Wings had the victory in hand. That effort was helped when Larkin scored during the opening shift. Gustav Nyquist threw a backhand on net that Zetterberg took a shot at, and it was Zetterberg’s rebound that Larkin popped behind Miller to earn a 1-0 lead after just 32 seconds. The momentum saw the Wings come at Miller steadily for several minutes. Howard was busy the second half of the period, especially during a Canucks power play that required three saves.
“I think we were outshooting them, 6-2, I thought we were building,” Blashill said. “Then all of a sudden, we started passing up shots, then we started not getting the puck deep. Then you have to face their forecheck, which is really aggressive.”
It was the second straight start for Howard, and his performance all but guarantees he’ll start again Saturday at Montreal. After a season-plus of turbulence, Howard’s resurgence gratifies.
“When I get in there, I just want to give the guys a chance to win,” Howard said. “Things seem to be going well. Being calm in there seem to be working. I feel good out there. It’s fun.”
Blashill said Howard “looked solid again. He’s not spitting out rebounds. He’s controlling the puck, the puck is sticking to him well. He’s doing a really good job.”
The Wings got it to 2-0 at 18:13 of the first period. Zetterberg won a faceoff against Brendan Gaunce, Niklas Kronwall pounced on the puck and got it to Smith, who wired a slap shot underneath the right arm of Miller.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin teamed up to halve Detroit’s lead three minutes into the third period, with Henrik Sedin beautifully feeding Daniel for a shot neither Howard, nor Kronwall, could have done anything to stop. Howard earned something of a standing ovation after he denied Brandon Sutter and then furiously scooped at the rebound before Derek Dorsett could get to it.
Nyquist almost made it 3-1 but his shot ricocheted off a post and the crossbar. Ott scored at 15:14, redirecting Ericsson’s slap shot from the left point and giving the Wings room to breathe.
“With five minutes left in the game, those are like empty netters,” Howard said. “Pretty big goal.”