DETROIT — If the Detroit Red Wings miss the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons, they’ll likely have their neighbors to the south to blame.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who came into Sunday’s game 14th in the Western Conference with 22 points, beat the Wings for the second straight night, 3-2 in a shootout.
For those scoring at home, the Wings went 1-3-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, collecting a total of three points out of a possible 10.
“It’s huge,” said Ryan Johansen, who had one of the Blue Jackets’ two shootout goals. “It was talked about (Saturday) that we’d won the season series, and we didn’t want to stop there. We wanted to keep taking it to them.
“We’re all pretty happy about how our matchup with them has been going this season.”
Detroit is 5-5-1 in their last 11 regular-season games against Columbus.
“They got a big D — they’re making it hard on you — and we’re not that heavy up front and so we spend little time in their zone,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The other thing is, if you come out of your zone with speed and execute, then you got a better chance of being on top of people and hanging onto the puck.
“In two games, we didn’t execute or handle their forecheck one bit.”
With seven of their next eight games on the road, the Wings needed to earn more points against the Blue Jackets.
“I didn’t think we competed hard enough in Game 1 (Saturday), for sure,” Babcock said. “I thought we competed better here (Sunday).
“In the end, we didn’t get enough points on the weekend.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 19 saves in regulation Sunday, credits the Blue Jackets for that.
“They play a tough style,” he said. “They dump the puck in and then they all fall back in their own zone.
“All five of them are just standing there in front of the net and it’s tough to get pucks through. We haven’t found an answer yet for them.”
The Wings no longer have to worry about the Blue Jackets, but they do have to worry about the way they’ve been playing.
“If we don’t execute coming out of our own zone right away, we’re not going to have any energy to attack,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “As soon as we get the puck out of our zone, we’re changing and we don’t have numbers to actually attack on their net. That’s the problem.
“We have to execute in our own zone. That’s where it starts.”
The Wings could also use a few more goals. They have 68 this season, tied with the Los Angeles Kings for fifth in the Western Conference.
However, since walloping the Vancouver Canucks 8-3 Feb. 24, the Wings have scored just 10 goals in regulation in their last seven games.
“Even when we win, we win 2-1,” Babcock said. “We got two again (Sunday), so it looks like we can’t give up two. We can only give up one. That’s a hard way to play.”
Playing on the road this season hasn’t been easy on the Wings, either. They have a 3-5-2 road record.
The Wings are going to have to find a way to win on the road or they’ll remember the season series against the Blue Jackets as the one that ended their playoff streak.