DETROIT – Jimmy Howard had quite the workload Monday.
It was just the sixth time this season that he’s stared down 35-plus shots, and only the second time he’s come out ahead in the win-loss column.
The Wings’ goalie was less phased by his task against the Edmonton Oilers, which was similar in his start last Wednesday when he stopped 39 shots in a 2-1 overtime win against the New York Rangers.
“To-may-to, to-mah-to,” Howard said. “Sometimes when you’re in there you’re just making saves on top of saves you’re not really thinking, you’re just playing. So in that aspect it’s nice, but there are some nights when you don’t see a lot of action and you feel just as sharp. So you have to find that level of consistency, just flat line and not roller-coastering.”
Howard stayed busy for much of the night, turning aside 36 shots while five different skaters scored as the Red Wings snapped a two-game losing skid with a 5-2 victory over the visiting Oilers at Joe Louis Arena.
Niklas Kronwall, Riley Sheahan, Teemu Pulkkinen, Justin Abdelkader and Pavel Datsyuk tallied for the Wings, who for the 11th time this season struck for at least five goals in regulation. Kronwall scored on the power play and Abdelkader and Datsyuk each scored empty-net goals in the win.
Henrik Zetterberg added three assists – his third multi-point game in the past four games and 14th of the season – and Sheahan and Pulkkinen had an assist each.
The Red Wings were coming off back-to-back losses in regulation – for the first time this season – to Calgary and Boston. But Monday, the Wings looked more like the team that went 4-1-1 during a recent six-game road swing to the West Coast and back.
“During the season, the emotional well, sometimes you just don’t have it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s no gas station to fill up with. That’s the truth. You try, but it fills up when it fills up and sometimes you’re just blah, and we’ve been blah for a bit. Ideally we’ll get some energy and get playing.”
The Wings found themselves feeling very lucky to be down just one goal after playing a lackluster first period, and Howard shoulder some of the blame for Rob Klinkhammer’s soft goal at 2:15.
“I think against the top teams in this league we’ll probably find ourselves down a couple after a start like that,” he said. “It’s the job of the goalie to make saves for the guys. I’m still trying to find that night in and night out consistency. It’s another game I can build off of. Enjoy this now and get ready for Columbus on Thursday. I’m trying to find that rhythm because that’s what I’m searching for now.”
The Red Wings turned things in their favor in the second period, getting goals from Kronwall and Sheahan to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
“They had a lot of pucks from the beginning, but I think we worked ourself into the game,” Zetterberg said. “The second and third we played well, even though we didn’t have that many shots we spent a lot of time in their end and they got tired.”
Pulkkinen scored his third career goal midway through the third to put Detroit up 3-1, but the Oilers wouldn’t go away, scoring on Nail Yakupov’s power-play goal, which cut the Red Wings’ lead to 3-2.
The Oilers continued to press in the offensive end, snapping off 17 total shots in the final 20 minutes.
“It was nice not to lose three in a row,” Zetterberg said. “Two in a row is enough and Howie came in today and played really well. He made some big, big saves there when it was a 1-1 game and 2-1 game. So obviously that third (goal) was nice to see, add a little insurance, and unfortunately I ended up in the box and they scored right away, but then when we got that empty net. That was good to get the two points.”
The win gives the Red Wings 85 points, pulling them within three and five points, respectively, of idle Tampa Bay (88) and Montreal (90) in the Atlantic Division standings.