Red Wings complete weekend sweep of Blue Jackets
Detroit -- It's odd to say that two regular-season games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in November are significant, but they turned out to be for the Red Wings.
After a tight 2-1 victory Friday night in Columbus, the Wings won the second part of the home-and-home Sunday evening, defeating the Blue Jackets, 4-2.
Friday night's win was for first in the Central Division and Sunday's gave the Wings some breathing room. The Wings, who also sit atop the Western Conference, now have 32 points in 21 games. The Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks are tied with 28 points.
"They're in our division, and Columbus is a team that's been playing real well," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "And I like their team, so it was a good measure for us."
The Blue Jackets also considered the two games a measuring stick for their own progress as a team under first-year coach Scott Arniel.
"Kind of a litmus test of how we're doing," Blue Jackets defenseman Mike Commodore said. "You lose two games, you fail. But we're in there."
The Wings trailed, 1-0, heading into the second period. That's when the veteran group kicked it up a notch, as famous chef Emeril Lagasse would say.
They out-shot the Blue Jackets, 17-8, and scored two goals in 14 seconds to take a 2-1 lead.
Niklas Kronwall scored the first right, after a Wings' power play expired, and Darren Helm had a pretty one in which he buried the puck into the top of the net over goaltender Steve Mason.
"Millsy (Drew Miller) got in deep, made a good play off the draw, gained possession, put it deep," Helm said with a shrug. "We just did a good job fore-checking, puck bounced out to me and I just made sure it went in.".
Said Babcock: "That was a big swing in the game right there. I don't know how quick it was, but two goals in a very short period of time."
Valtteri Filppula added a goal 52 seconds into the third period on a rebound. But the Wings couldn't just kick back and relax after that, as Filppula was called for a 4-minute high-sticking penalty on Commodore and Kronwall was called for holding Antoine Vermette, which gave the Blue Jackets a 2-minute two-man advantage.
Babcock used Pavel Datsyuk with Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart and then Henrik Zetterberg with Jonathan Ericsson and Ruslan Salei to kill off the threat. The Blue Jackets got only one shot during the 2 minutes.
"That was huge for us," Lidstrom said. "If they scored a goal there, they're still on the power play.
"We did block some good shots, and Howie (Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard) came up big again with saves when we really needed him to."
Killing off a two-man advantage like that always gives the shorthanded team the momentum.
"We came out and shot a few, they blocked a couple," Arniel said. "We all of a sudden started burying our heads and putting shots into their shin pads."
If you're looking for the biggest difference between the two teams, it's special teams. The Wings came into the game seventh on the power play and 12th in penalty killing. The Blue Jackets were ranked 28th on the power play, seventh on the penalty kill.
"We did a good job," Helm said. "I think we've been doing a good job the last couple games, especially when games are really important, we need to win, we find a way to really bring out our best game.
"Penalty kill's a big part of our game. When the game's on the line, we've been doing really well."
The Blue Jackets all said that they need to learn to do what the Wings do on a consistent basis.
"They know how to win, and that's something we're learning," R.J. Umberger said.
Rick Nash, who had a golden chance on a partial breakaway that Howard stopped, agreed.
"We've got to take notes from them," Nash said, "see how they do it."
Bob Boughner, a two-time Memorial Cup-winning coach with the Windsor Spitfires and a former Wings draft choice, is in his first season as an assistant with the Blue Jackets. He played against the Wings many years and knows what kind of team his team would like to be.
"We've still got some work to do," Boughner said. "There's been a lot of good things up until now, but there's definitely some work to do if we want to try and compete with the Detroit Red Wings of the world."
Nov. 28, 2010