The Detroit Red Wings are playing so well that they're winning even when their coach says they're not at their best.
Johan Franzen scored on Detroit's first shot to extend his personal goal-scoring streak against the Ducks to seven games. Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula also scored for the Western Conference-leading Red Wings, who've won both games on their California trip and nine of 11 overall to open up a five-point lead over Dallas and Vancouver.
Despite the four-goal margin, coach Mike Babcock said he's seen his team play better.
"I thought the score flattered us," he said. "Howie was really good, and we scored some good goals at the net. We were able to score on some of our opportunities and they weren't.
"I thought we were all right, but not as good as we've been at other times."
Forward Henrik Zetterberg, whose second-period assist on Holmstrom's goal was his 500th career point, agreed that this wasn't the prettiest win he'd ever seen.
"It wasn't a beautiful one tonight, but we'll take the two points," he said. "You can't just win the beautiful ones."
The biggest reason the Wings made it look easy was Howard, who was good to the last shot -- right down to the last few seconds when the Ducks pressed for a goal that would at least avoid a shutout.
"It is frustrating," forward Corey Perry said. "We battled hard tonight, but we just couldn't find a way to get the puck past Howard. It was just one of those nights where things just didn't go our way."
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Ducks, who were held to fewer than three goals for the seventh time in their last 10 contests. Jonas Hiller made 25 saves, many of them superb, but it wasn't nearly enough.
"We did a lot of good things in the hockey game," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We controlled a lot of the play. We weren't able to find a way to score a goal."
Franzen opened the scoring 69 seconds into the game after a turnover by defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky in the Anaheim zone, beating Hiller with a rebound from the lower left circle.
Holmstrom made it 2-0 at 14:02 of the second with his seventh goal and first on the road, knocking home a rebound of a backhander by Henrik Zetterberg, whose assist was his 500th NHL point.
"We had a couple of turnovers, a couple of mental lapses there and we're down 2-0," Perry said. "They got the third one at the end of the period that was heartbreaker."
Cleary added his 12th goal late in the period on a screened one-timer after another turnover, and Filppula scored on a deflection with 31 seconds to play.
The Wings played their puck-possession game to perfection as the game went along, making it difficult for the Ducks to mount a coherent attack despite their large shot total -- and resulting in a game that took just 2 hours and 6 minutes, the fastest in the NHL this season.
"It's tough for them to score goals while you've got the puck," Zetterberg said.
Howard will get the night off on Saturday when the Wings try to sweep their California trip when they visit Los Angeles. Chris Osgood, who hasn't played since going down with a groin injury on Nov. 1, is scheduled to play.
"I've felt good out there," said Howard, who has played every game since then, "but I'm excited to watch Ozzie tomorrow night."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|Johan Franzen (11) ASST: Valtteri Filppula (8)|
1 - 0 DET
|Tomas Holmstrom (7) ASST: Henrik Zetterberg (16), Pavel Datsyuk (20)|
2 - 0 DET
|Daniel Cleary (12) ASST: Brian Rafalski (13)|
3 - 0 DET
|Valtteri Filppula (7) ASST: Jonathan Ericsson (1), Johan Franzen (7)|
4 - 0 DET
|Jonathan Ericsson Interference against Matt Beleskey|
|Pavel Datsyuk Hi-sticking against Paul Mara|
|Todd Bertuzzi Slashing against Cam Fowler|
|Jason Blake Roughing against Tomas Holmstrom|