Not even the NHL’s hottest goaltender can slow down hockey’s hottest team.
Columbus’ Pascal Leclaire came to Joe Louis Arena Friday night with a 1.12 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage — both league bests. But the Detroit Red Wings came in with an eight-game winning streak, and extended it to nine by beating Leclaire and the Blue Jackets 4-1.
The nine straight wins matches the longest streak in Red Wings history. They’ve done it six times previously, the last time from Oct. 25-Nov. 14, 2006, and can break the mark with a victory on Sunday in Chicago. Detroit hasn’t lost since a 6-3 defeat at Anaheim on Oct. 15 and is playing like a team that thinks it can’t lose.
“I think confidence is a huge thing,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of the streak, which has helped the Wings go 13-2-1 in their first 16 games. “You earn the right to feel good about yourselves. It’s a tough thing in sport to gain it — but when you have it, you have to make sure you protect what’s yours. You have to keep it. The season is still young and we have to get better.”
The Wings made things easy for goaltender Dominik Hasek, who returned after missing five games with a hip injury. Hasek faced just 16 shots and was beaten only once — Rick Nash banged in a rebound 49 seconds into the second period during a 5-on-3 power play for his 11th of the season.
“I have to give credit to my teammates,” Hasek said. “Five-on-five, they had one, maybe two chances for the whole game. We dominated for 60 minutes.”
To defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, Hasek looked none the worse for the layoff.
“He looked real sharp,” the Detroit captain said. “It looked like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Nash’s goal tied the game at 1-1, matching Brett Lebda’s first-period power-play goal. Tomas Holmstrom put the Wings ahead to stay at 13:53 of the middle period, jamming the puck into the net off Leclaire’s pad during another power play after Leclaire came off the right post.
“I was out there for 1:45, so it’s like a big blur,” Holmstrom said of his ninth goal. “The shot came down and hit the boards. (Leclaire) left the post open. Lucky for me, I scored there.”
The two power-play goals came against the NHL’s top penalty-killing unit. Columbus had allowed just four man-advantage goals in 69 opportunities, but the Wings scored twice in six chances.
Dan Cleary, who missed part of the second period while getting stitches to repair a cut after taking a puck in the face and returned wearing a visor, made it 3-1 midway through the third period, and Henrik Zetterberg also scored for the Wings.
''They're a team that no matter how much skill they have, they work hard,'' said Blue Jackets captain and defenseman Adam Foote.
Cleary’s goal at 8:40 of the third period, a play in which he followed the puck to the net and banged it past Leclaire, took some heart out of the Jackets.
“That third goal was a killer,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Detroit appeared to wear down Leclaire and the Blue Jackets as the game went on. Detroit outshot Columbus 36-16 — the 14th time in 16 games the Wings have outshot the opposition.
“Once we got going, I thought we took the game over late in the second and the third period,” Lidstrom said. Zetterberg’s 13th goal of the season, with just 1:28 remaining, extended his points streak to 16 games, the longest from the start of a season in Wings history.
Not that he was concerned about keeping the streak alive.
“When you’re out there, you don’t think about it that much,” he said. “It will end sometime. We’re playing well. It all starts with playing good defense and lot letting them have a lot of chances. If we do that, the offense will come.”
Material from wire services was used in this report.