Red Wings beat Blue Jackets to claim first place in West
Columbus, Ohio -- Jimmy Howard said he was not satisfied with his performances recently. That changed Friday night.
Howard sparkled in goal, bailing out his team several times, and the Red Wings defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1, before a sellout crowd that included thousands of Wings supporters.
"I had to respond, you know, after several games of not playing up to what I believe is my capability," said Howard, who turned away 34 shots. "Over the course of the season, you have those games. It's just important that you try not to change anything, you just keep going on what has gotten you success so far."
The teams started the night tied at the top of the Western Conference. It presented an early, but important challenge for the Wings, who had yielded at least four goals in the previous three games, and lost their last two road games.
While the Red Wings continued to yield considerably more shots than in some of their better seasons, Howard was left alone less frequently than in recent games. But he was fabulous when necessary, making several outstanding saves.
Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Red Wings. Antoine Vermette scored for the Blue Jackets, who failed to convert on five power-play chances and a penalty shot.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the number of power plays made him less concerned about the numerous shots on net.
"Obviously, Howie was fantastic," Babcock said. "Your best penalty killer is always your goalie. But I thought, as the game went on that our penalty kill got better and better."
The Red Wings opened the scoring in the second period. After Filppula pounced on a turnover at the Wings blue line, he, Todd Bertuzzi and Franzen skated in on a three-on-one. Bertuzzi's cross-ice pass came softly to Franzen, who buried his 10th goal at 7:04.
About two minutes later, Columbus forward Jared Boll was awarded a penalty shot. Boll had skated in alone on Howard after chipping the puck past Ruslan Salei, at the Columbus blue line. Salei caught Boll from behind and bothered the winger's shot with his stick. But Howard easily handled Boll's shot from 20 feet.
Boll said he thought it was his first penalty shot at any level, and that he had been trying to score between Howard's legs, although the puck went to the goalie's right.
At 15:30 Howard moved across the crease to make a sprawling save on a shot from the red-hot Columbus right wing Jakub Voracek, while the Blue Jackets were on their fourth power play.
Filppula scored on a power play at 8:06 of the third. Brad Stuart collected a pass and held it for moments, until Filppula emerged to the side of the net. Filppula took Stuart's pass and fired from an acute angle, for the goal. Jiri Hudler assisted on the play.
"I though Fil was fantastic," Babcock said. "He tracked like crazy. He had a great turnover on the first goal. And then, obviously, on the second goal, on the power play for the game winner