The Detroit Red Wings’ push to make the playoffs got a boost with two desperately needed points.
Johan Franzen scored twice and Jimmy Howard had 34 saves to help Detroit beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 Monday night in a matchup of two teams in a logjam for the final two spots in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Red Wings moved within a point of eighth-place Columbus in conference. They’re hoping to finish the last three games of the regular season strong enough to extend the franchise’s postseason streak to 22 years – the first without Steve Yzerman or Nicklas Lidstrom as a captain.
”Of course, taking over the captaincy, it means a lot to me for this team to do well,” said Henrik Zetterberg, who had three assists. ”We’ve been doing good the past 21 seasons and we want to keep that going.”
Detroit had won only one of its previous six games, picking up a precious point in three shootout losses during the slump.
”This was a huge game for us, where we are in the standings and coming off a disappointing road trip,” Howard said. ”We have our work cut out for us. One down and now three to go.”
The Red Wings close the regular season at home against the defending champion Los Angeles Kings, Nashville and at Dallas, which is also vying for one of the final spots in the West.
”We can enjoy this for a minute,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ”But all it does is give us another opportunity.”
Damien Brunner scored late in the first period and Valtteri Filppula had a power-play goal late in the second to help Detroit match its season high in power-play scoring. Franzen had an empty-net goal with 1:22 left.
The Coyotes, five points behind with Blue Jackets, are on the brink of elimination after losing for the fourth time in five games with the potential to earn just six more points in the fading regular season.
”Just got to find a way to win the next one and give ourselves a chance,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said.
Phoenix has been in the playoffs the previous three seasons, losing to Detroit in the first round in 2011 and 2010.
The Red Wings were skating hard and checking a lot – even Pavel Datsyuk had two big hits within the first 10 minutes of the game – in their quest to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990.
”They understand what’s going on more than anybody,” Babcock said. ”They make their living here and they got a lot of pride in wearing the sweater.”
Detroit scored on its first shot when Franzen redirected a puck past Mike Smith into the game on a power play.
The Red Wings didn’t let a shot get to Howard for more than 6 minutes. Meanwhile, they went 13-plus minutes without a shot of their own and needed Howard to make some key saves to keep the lead. He stopped Doan’s shot on a power play midway through the first period and got his stick and pads on Radim Vrbata’s one-timer with 6 minutes left in the first period.
”We had opportunities to score; we didn’t, they did,” Doan said. ”That’s the story.”
Soon after killing a penalty, the Red Wings scored another goal with an extra skater in the final minute of the first period.
Brunner scored from the bottom of the right circle off Zetterberg’s pass from the top of the right circle. It was his first goal since April 1, his second in 22 games and by setting up Franzen’s goal, he had his first multipoint game since a two-goal, two-assist game on Feb. 24 against Vancouver.
Detroit’s Daniel Cleary was called for tripping twice in the first 4-plus minutes of the second period and the Coyotes failed to take advantage of either power play while being held to just two shots.
”We didn’t play well with the man advantage and that was the difference,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Doan had an open net midway through the second period only to have rookie defenseman Danny Dekeyser extend his stick far enough to deflect the shot over the net.
Filppula scored from a sharp angle at the bottom of the first circle at 16:09 of the second period to give Detroit a 3-0 lead. He scored for the first time in eight games and had his second goal in 17 games.
”We need him to be an important player,” Babcock said. ”Ideally, this goal will help him take a step.”
Howard faced a flurry of shots and finished with his second shutout in nine days and fourth of the season. He earned his 128th career victory, tying Tim Cheveldae for fifth in franchise history.
Babcock was asked if Howard was good enough to carry the offensively challenged team.
”He has to,” Babcock said.
NOTES: Coyotes D Keith Yandle, who played in his 300th straight game since March 22, 2009, plans to give the No. 8 jersey with ”Martin Richard” on the back he wore in warmups Saturday night at Chicago to the family of the 8-year-old boy who died in the Boston Marathon bombings. … Detroit was averaging 1.73 goals in their previous 11 games after scoring 2.67 in their first 33 games. … Phoenix ends the regular season at home against San Jose and Colorado and on the road against Anaheim.