Wings top Jackets for 16th straight home win
DETROIT — The Red Wings apparently believe in giving the fans more than they paid for, based on their recent streak of overtime and shootout games.
Overlooking the fact that with a better start to the game the Wings likely could have won without bonus hockey, for the sixth time in the last eight games, the Wings managed to win in a shootout.
Thanks to Valtteri Filppula's shootout goal and Jimmy Howard not allowing one in four attempts, the Wings defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-2.
"We think we're going to win, which is a real nice thing to have," coach Mike Babcock said. "But we can play better than we have, no question about it. So we don't want to get into a rut playing like this, we want to play way better. We can skate better, play at a higher tempo, get more out of guys and make better decisions.
"In saying all that, it's a hard league to win in, all you got to do is look around. So we're always thankful for any win. I never met a bad win."
The victory was the Wings' 16th straight at home, extending their franchise record. They also improved to 8-1 in overtime and 5-0 in shootouts this season.
The Wings (32-15-1) have 65 points, most in the NHL, and lead the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues by one point in the Central Division.
"Obviously we would like to win in 60 minutes but definitely it gives us confidence that even though the games go to overtime and shootouts that we can win those games," Filppula said. "Definitely when you check the standings, it's really important points so I'm glad we're able to get those."
Howard, who leads the league with 29 wins, said he doesn't mind the shootouts.
"It's just about being patient as a goalie, let them run out of room and have to make a move and just push the puck," Howard said. "It's working on it in practice. It's also having fun out there."
Niklas Kronwall, who scored the Wings' first goal and assisted on the other, scored by captain Nicklas Lidstrom, thinks all the overtime/shootout games are just a phase they are going through.
"That’s just the way things happen sometimes," Kronwall said. "But if you look at our overall game, if we play a good game tonight and stick to our program and do what we do, I think we would have been winning it in 60 minutes.
"That’s how much we believe in ourselves. We made it hard on ourselves, we didn’t get through the neutral zone like we normally do with some speed. We were a little bit stubborn tonight. Fortunately Jimmy Howard, once again, came up huge for us."
The sour note of the night came midway through the third period. Henrik Zetterberg was fighting for the puck with Columbus defenseman Nikita Nikitin, who had a power-play goal earlier for the Blue Jackets. Zetterberg had his hand on Nikitin, who went hard into the boards and had to be helped off the ice.
Zetterberg was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. The Wings were able to kill off the three-minute penalty after a Blue Jackets' penalty ended.
"The puck went down to the corner and I chased down their defenseman," Zetterberg said. "I had my hand on his back. I don’t think I pushed him hard. He went down. It looked bad, it looks really bad, so I can’t blame the referee for giving me five minutes."
Zetterberg does not have a reputation for being a dirty player but he understands he could face additional punishment.
"It’s up to Shanny," Zetterberg said of former Wing Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's vice president of player safety. "Shanny and the league is going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule, I made contact and he went down. Hopefully he’s OK, I didn’t mean to hurt him and we’ll have to wait and see."
Columbus interim head coach Todd Richards said he had looked at the replay but would let the league decide.
"It’s that danger area, where guys are going into the boards and at full speed when guys are moving it’s dangerous," Richards said. "The game is moving so fast now that, again, just a little bit here or there and you’re going into the boards at full speed."
Babcock acknowledged that the league is trying to protect the defensemen so they are calling a penalty on anything like that.
"I talked to (referee) Denny LaRue right away, I just said, 'Denny, is that the way you're calling it?' and he said that's the way," Babcock said. "So why wouldn't they (call it)? We're trying to protect the players. It was an unfortunate play. I hope the guy's not hurt."
Meanwhile, the Wings won't have long to enjoy their Western Conference and Central Division lead as the revitalized Blues come to town Monday.
"Of course, it’s turning into quite a rivalry with them and Chicago, and even Nashville," Kronwall said. "Our division is really tight, like everyone knows, and obviously two big points at stake."