Jackets go for third win in four games

The Jackets and Red Wings will fight it out Thursday night in Detroit.

Carlos Osorio/AP

A matchup with a weak opponent allowed the Detroit Red Wings to get back on track defensively and back into the win column.

The Wings host another non-contender Thursday night, though the Columbus Blue Jackets have played better in the past week since an ugly losing streak and have dominated this series of late.

Detroit (37-17-11) gave up five goals each time in losses to Calgary on Friday and Boston on Sunday – its first consecutive defeats in regulation this season – after allowing six goals during a three-game win streak. A matchup with Edmonton on Monday proved to be just what the Red Wings needed as they earned a 5-2 home victory.

The win was hardly convincing, however. Detroit was outshot 38-26 – including 14-7 in the first period, when it fell behind 1-0 – and the final score was inflated by two empty-net goals.

The Oilers had 17 shots in the third.

"I think against the top teams in this league we’ll probably find ourselves down a couple (goals) after a start like that," goaltender Jimmy Howard, who started one night after coming on in relief against the Bruins, told the team’s official website. "It’s the job of the goalie to make saves for the guys. I’m still trying to find that night in and night out consistency. It’s another game I can build off of.

"Enjoy this now and get ready for Columbus on Thursday. I’m trying to find that rhythm because that’s what I’m searching for now."

Teemu Pulkkinen had a goal and an assist and Henrik Zetterberg added three assists for Detroit, which is seven points up on Boston for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, five behind Tampa Bay for second and six back of Montreal for first.

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"During the season, the emotional well, sometimes you just don’t have it," coach Mike Babcock told the team’s website. "There’s no gas station to fill up with. That’s the truth. You try, but it fills up when it fills up and sometimes you’re just blah, and we’ve been blah for a bit. Ideally we’ll get some energy and get playing."

Columbus (28-34-4) has started to do that again since a seven-game skid, beating Carolina 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday for its second win in three games.

Scott Hartnell scored twice for the Blue Jackets, who got all of their goals on the power play against the best penalty-killing team in the East. Columbus, which rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 first-period deficits, had totaled three man-advantage goals in the previous 16 contests.

"The power play was big," coach Todd Richards said. "I was disappointed in the way we ended the first period, giving up a goal late, but the guys rebounded and came out with some better focus.

"… We found a way to win the hockey game. Too many times this year it’s been the other way around."

Penalty killing has been a problem for the Wings of late, as they’ve given up a least one power-play goal in seven straight games (8 for 28). Detroit’s dangerous power play continues to roll, however, as it’s scored once with the man advantage in each of the past six to push its season average to 25.4.

Columbus has killed off 79.3 percent of short-handed situations, among the lowest marks in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets took the most recent meeting 1-0 in a shootout Dec. 16 at Detroit, with Sergei Bobrovsky making 30 saves and Howard stopping 29 shots. Columbus has gone 8-2-1 in the last 11 matchups and won three of four at Joe Louis Arena.