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Bounces go Miller's way in Wings' win

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Drew Miller scored his first goal of the season, which was his eventual sixth career game-winner in the Wings' 3-0 win over Edmonton Friday at JLA. (Photo by Dave Sandford)
DETROIT – It wasn’t anything coaches draw-up in the locker room, but Drew Miller’s first-period goal was a much-needed gift that the Red Wings gladly accepted Friday night.

“Our game plan was getting pucks on net and getting those second and third chances,” said Miller, whose first of the season was the game-winning goal in the Wings’ 3-0 decision over the Edmonton Oilers at Joe Louis Arena.

The play actually started out as a design with Patrick Eaves working down low in the corner on an Oilers’ line change. Once the Wings’ forward gained possession, he spun and fired a blind pass toward the front of the Edmonton net.

That’s where the Wings got not one, but two, lucky bounces, as Eaves’ pass pinballed off of Jeff Petry’s skate then Tom Gilbert’s stick. From there Miller fought off Gilbert and center Lennart Petrell from the low slot and beat goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with a wrist shot at 10:35.

The puck, Miller said, “was kind of all over the place, but that's how I score goals. They're never the pretty ones.”

However he scores them, Miller now has six career game-winning tallies – that’s 22% of his career goal total.

Miller’s goal was just the beginning of Khabibulin’s headaches, as he surrendered a season-worst three goals. It was the fourth straight time in regulation – dating back to last season – that the Wings have beaten the Russian-born goalie.

The assist on Miller’s goal was also the first point of the season for Eaves, who returned to the lineup Friday after missing the previous three contests with a sore back.

“It was nice to get the first one of the way and to get the first goal for us, too,” Miller said.

Coach Mike Babcock was equally pleased with the effort out of the Wings’ fourth line, though he was reluctant to put a label on the line that included rookie center Cory Emmerton.

“I don’t know how much of a fourth line they are,” Babcock said. “They’ve played great here lately. Anytime Patty Eaves plays with two guys that skate he plays really well. He shot the puck and I thought Miller and him moved up to different lines when we got up and they did a real good job of finishing off the game as well. They’re all playing well, and that’s a good thing.”

LEAGUE LEADER: For Jimmy Howard, Friday’s shutout was his third this season and second in three games. He’s now tied with Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for the NHL’s lead.

“I thought he’s been excellent,” Babcock said. “I mean, he had a few games off when his wife was giving birth. Other then that he’s played all of the games and played great.”

It was the first time that the young Oilers have been held off the scoreboard this season, but Howard was quick to credit the Wings’ third consecutive win to team defense.

“We did a good job. Even when they intercepted passes guys were in a good position to cover for guys,” said Howard, who made 24 saves Friday. “We played well, played smart.”

The win was the Wings fourth shutout of the season. Ty Conklin had the team’s first one last month.

“You take them as they come,” said Howard, of the shutouts. “Sort of like when a batter's in a zone at the plate. Just continue to build off them, build you confidence. You don't rest on your laurels, you keep working hard in practice.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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