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Howard's effort keeps Wings in game

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Jimmy Howard makes one of his 29 saves in the Red Wings' 1-0 shootout loss to Columbus Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. It was Howard's second shutout of the season, and third career against the Blue Jackets. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – With goals in short supply lately, it was a good thing Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was on top of his game again Tuesday night.

“I felt awesome,” declared Howard, who made 29 saves in a spectacular individual effort while earning his 20th career shutout. “I felt really good. No different than I have for pretty much 98 percent of the year. I felt really good. The pucks were sticking to me.”

Unfortunately, the goalie on the other end of the rink could claim the same kind of success.

Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves and stopped Gustav Nyquist and Henrik Zetterberg on shootout attempts to defeat the Red Wings, 1-0, at Joe Louis Arena.

Howard, who is among the top 10 goalies in wins, goals-against average and shutouts, has played well all season. But he’s been particularly sharp this month, not allowing more than two goals in regulation or overtime of any of his past five starts. But he did surrender goals to Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner in the skills competition.

Pavel Datsyuk scored the only penalty shot for the Red Wings, who fell to 1-6 in shootouts this season.

The Wings' week-long scoring woes continued Tuesday as they suffered their first shutout loss of the season. Detroit has scored just four goals in its past four games (0-1-3).

“Any loss is tough to swallow,” Howard said. “It happens every once in a while, sometimes you come out the right end of it and sometimes you don’t. For myself it’s just keep the pucks in front of me.”

Howard came up with one super save after another leaving Jackets’ shooters scratching their heads through 65-minutes of action, while giving the Wings a chance on the other end against the Blue Jackets, who entered the game riding a season-long six-game win streak.

“Jimmy was very impressive today again,” Zetterberg said. “He made some key saves after key saves and unfortunately we couldn’t get the two points for him here tonight.”

Howard came up big late in the third period and again in overtime, first stopping Nick Foligno with seven minutes left in regulation with a fine left leg save when the Jackets' leading goal scorer tried to push the puck between Detroit's goalie and the near post. Then, with 1:16 left in OT, Cam Atkinson made a nifty centering pass from the half wall to Kevin Connauton in the slot, but Howard was there to rob the defenseman.

Howard saved the day early in the third too when he stymied Matt Calvert on a near breakaway after the Wings lost a faceoff deep in the Columbus zone.

“I thought he played really well,” defenseman Danny DeKeyser said. “If it wasn't for him on a few of those plays, it could have easily been 2 or 3-nothing in the third period especially. I thought he played really well. He's been solid for us all year.”

The 29-save effort was Howard’s second shutout of the season and the third time he’s blanked the Blue Jackets in his career, running his consecutive shutout streak against them to 136:24, dating back to their final meeting of 2013-14.

Howard made 28 saves in a 5-0 win at Columbus on Nov. 18.

“What I don’t like is Howie stood on his head and leaves the rink feeling like he didn’t win,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They don’t have a home run derby to decide a tie ballgame. It doesn’t make any sense. But it is what it is. There’s points on the line and we’ve got to find a way. We’ve really worked hard at it. We work on (shootouts) every pre-game skate. We’ve focused on it. We’ve spent a lot of time working at it, whether it’s watching the other goalies or whatever. Howie needs to find a way to get a win. That’s it.”

Shootouts have been an Achille’s heel for the Red Wings this season, and not just for Howard. While he's stopped only 4-of-15 shootout attempts, don’t look for anyone to rest blame on him.

“I think it goes for the whole team, not just Jimmy,” said Zetterberg, who failed to score on his shootout attempt Tuesday. “He’s not taking the penalty shots, he’s just trying to save them. I think we all have to be better. We just have to have more confidence. … We got one point. Obviously, the second point is important, but when in the penalty shot situation you have to have confidence. If you’re pressing and you’re holding your stick a little too tight you won’t score. We just have to go out and enjoy it and I think we’re going to be better in the future.”

Howard was strong throughout the 65-minute game, and made a few huge stops in the second period, most notably on Brandon Dubinsky in the opening minute. The Blue Jackets’ veteran center took a drop pass and fired a shot through traffic that was earmarked for the upper right corner. But Howard, while doing the splits, flashed his left catching glove in the air to snag the wrister at 23-seconds of the middle frame.

The Wings dodged another second-period bullet when Foligno’s shot from close range struck the left post before rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet swept the puck out of the vicinity with 11:36 left.

“I thought it was a hard fought game on both sides,” Howard said. “It could have gone either way. It just sucks that we came out on the losing end.”

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