Red Wings must keep grinding out wins

Jimmy Howard stopped all three Edmonton attempts to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 2-1 win over the Oilers on Friday night.

Duane Burleson/AP

DETROIT — The Red Wings have long since given up the thought of trying to win pretty games.

With the injuries they have, they know it’s going to be a grind right to the end to try to make the playoffs.

On Friday, the Wings needed Tomas Tatar to score and Jimmy Howard to stand tall in net in the shootout against the Edmonton Oilers for a 2-1 victory.

With the two points, the Wings now have 73, so they remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with Philadelphia but behind in ROW (regulation plus overtime wins).

"They are huge," Tatar said. "We need every point right now. That game was kind of sloppy. We put ourselves in a bad position when they tied up the game and we had a power play and couldn’t score.

"It was tough. We could play better. There are games like this and we are really happy to take those two points from them."

The Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks so they’re just one point behind at 72.

The Oilers may be last in the Western Conference and out of the playoff race, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying to win as they finish out the season.

"They’re a dangerous team right now when they are playing as loose as they are," Howard said. "They’re just wheeling-and-dealing out there and they’re a tough team to play against. They have a lot of skilled forwards and they made us work for everything here (Friday night)."

The Wings had a 1-0 lead thanks to a first-period goal from Riley Sheahan on a nice behind-the-net pass from Tatar at 13:53 of the first.

"It was an unbelievable pass. I think me or Millsie (Drew Miller) could have gotten it. We were both whacking at it. Just fortunate it went in."

As has happened so many times this season, the Wings could not hold the lead.

At 8:43 of the third, Wings defenseman Brendan Smith threw a pass that ended up on the stick of Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth. Smyth did not miss.

"I absolutely didn’t expect that," Smyth said. "I thought he was going to throw it around the boards. Smith just threw it up the middle."

Everyone knows who’s missing from the Detroit lineup: captain Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco, Daniel Cleary, etc.

So scoring is going to be hard to come by.

The power play has gone three games without a goal, 0-for-11 overall.

"It wasn’t good enough, we couldn’t score," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought last game we had some good looks. I didn’t think we had good looks (Friday night).

"We didn’t enter very good and in the end, so it wasn’t as good as we’d like it to be. In saying that, our penalty kill shut their power play down, too, so I’ll just say their penalty kill was good and so was ours."

Sheahan is on the second power-play unit, along with David Legwand, Tatar, Danny DeKeyser and rookie Teemu Pulkkinen at the point.

"We just gotta focus on getting shots through and getting active at the net," Sheahan said. "We have so many skilled players, I think if you get a shot through, it opens up some space."

There’s no space in the standings unless you’re the Boston Bruins (93 points) or Pittsburgh Penguins (92 points). 

It wouldn’t take more than a bad few games to end your season if you’re in the Wings’ position. 

So ugly or not, the Wings will take the shootout victory.

"We’re not gonna pick and choose how we win at this point of the season," Sheahan said. "All that matters is that we’re coming out on top. (Friday night) we were fortunate enough to do that. Now we just gotta keep working hard."