DETROIT – Jeff Blashill is sticking with his same philosophy on back-to-back nights.
Jimmy Howard will start for just the second time this month when the Red Wings host the Anaheim Ducks at Joe Louis Arena tonight.
Howard has certainly had his struggles this season, though he played well in his last start 13 days ago in Los Angeles. In that game, he made 27 saves in a 4-2 loss to the Kings. It was the first time that Howard wasn’t pulled from a game for a poor performance since Dec. 18 when he 37 stops in a 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver.
“I expect him to be elite, that’s what it takes to win in the league because I think every game is a one-goal game, so you got to have elite goaltending,” Blashill said of Howard. “I think he’s done that through different parts of the season and went through a little bit of a tough stretch where, one, he might not have played good enough, but probably I also thought some games went the wrong way. I’ve been a goalie, sometimes pucks go wide, pucks hit the post, sometimes they go off guys and in and it just seemed like he was in a couple of games where it was a tough cycle for him. We hope that he can come in and be the elite goalie that he is.”
The 31-year-old Howard has a 7-6-4 record with a 2.68 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage this season.
Meanwhile, Petr Mrazek has seemingly taken control of the team’s unofficially standing as the No. 1 goaltender. In Friday’s 3-0 win at Buffalo, he turned aside all 19 shots he faced, lifting the Red Wings to a 6-2-1 record in their last nine contests.
Friday’s win was Mrazek’s third shutout of the season and the eighth of his career, improving to 6-1-1 in his last eight appearances and 17-9-4 overall with a 2.03 GAA and .932 save percentage.
Tonight’s game is the second and final game of the season series with the Ducks. The Wings defeated the Ducks, 2-1, at Honda Center on Jan. 10.
Saturday’s game is also the 1,400th regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena, which first hosted an NHL game on Dec. 27, 1979. The St. Louis Blues beat the Red Wings 3-2.
The Wings grabbed an early lead when Darren Helm converted a breakaway into his first goal in the past 19 games. Helm’s goal – with assists going to defensemen Brendan Smith and Mike Green – was the first scored by the team in the last five first periods.
Helm, who has four goals this season, last scored Dec. 10 when he netted a pair in a 3-2 win over Montreal at Joe Louis Arena.
Howard looked good early in the period. He seemed to track the puck well in his crease, and was quick laterally when he had to move from post to post. But the Ducks still managed to beat the veteran goalie twice, getting even-strength goals by Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry.
The first goal wasn’t Howard’s fault as Kesler took a pass in the slot from Jakub Silfverberg, who was stationed behind the Wings’ net. Kesler snapped a shot before Henrik Zetterberg could get back.
Perry made a nice play to deke Howard out of position before sliding a backhand into an open net.
ANAHEIM 2, DETROIT 1
SCORING: 1. DET, Helm (Smith, Green), 1:10; 2. ANA, Kesler (Silfverberg, Cogliano), 7:26; 3. ANA, Perry (Rakell, Perron), 18:36.
PENALTIES: 1. DET, DeKeyser (high sticking), 3:31; 2. DET, Smith (cross checking), 9:50; 3. ANA, Perron (goaltender interference), 19:03.
SHOTS: Detroit 9, Anaheim 13.
Two giveaways – one each by Smith and Zetterberg – set up Kesler twice in the matter of seconds. Smith’s gaff behind the net enabled Kesler’s wrap-around attempt, which slid harmlessly through the crease and out the opposite side. From there, Zetterberg’s diagonal clearing pass was intercepted by Kesler who snapped a wrist shot from the high slot. Alertly, Howard made the save on the 35-foot shot.
Dylan Larkin, who collected his fourth multi-point game, and fifth winning goal of the season Friday in Buffalo, had a glorious chance on the Red Wings’ first power play of the period. After taking a pass from Brad Richards, the rookie stepped out from beneath the goal line, but his shot, which sailed under goalie John Gibson’s right arm, hit the far goal post.
While the Wings’ didn’t produce on the power play, they did even the score when Tomas Jurco scored for the first time in 18 games. The play began with Jurco’s breakout pass to Smith From there, Jurco, Smith and Gustav Nyquist took off on an odd-man rush, finishing with Jurco’s pretty backhand shot into the top of the net behind Gibson.
Looking to spark the offense, Blashill shuffled the forward lines late in the second period, reuniting Zetterberg with Pavel Datsyuk and Larkin. Fourth liners Teemu Pulkkinen and Jurco were elevated to the second line with Richards. The third line is now Riley Sheahan with Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, and fourth-line center Luke Glendening is with Justin Abdelkader and Helm.
With 4:59 left on the period, Green brought the sold-out crowd to their feet. As the defenseman exited the penalty box he received a stretch pass that set Green in alone on Gibson. But the Ducks’ goalie made a spectacular glove save to keep the score even at 2-2.
DETROIT 2, ANAHEIM 2
SCORING: 1. DET, Jurco (Nyquist, Smith), 9:21.
PENALTIES: 1. ANA, Perron (holding), 6:07; 2. DET, Ericsson (hooking), 10:44; 3. DET, Green (delay of game), 12:52.
SHOTS: Detroit 10 (19), Anaheim 13 (26).
For the second time in the game, Perry gave the Ducks a one-goal lead with a no-look, sweeping shot from in close that squeezed between Danny DeKeyser and Howard.
A minute later the Wings went on the power play, but they couldn’t find the equalizer.
For the second straight night Larkin was worse for wear when he suffered a large cut to the left cheek. As he and defenseman Kevin Bieksa fell to the ice in front of the Ducks’ net, Larkin was accidentally cut by Bieksa’s skate.
Larkin had his nose bloodied and chipped a tooth when he was high sticked by the Sabres’ Marcus Foligno in the third period of Friday’s game. Larkin had dental work done Saturday afternoon.
Kesler scored his second goal of the game, giving the Ducks a 4-2 lead.
With 3:27 left, Rickard Rakell was called for boarding when he slammed Smith into the end boards behind the Detroit net. Smith appeared injured on the play and went to the Wings’ dressing room. Meanwhile, Howard went to the bench to give Detroit a 6-on-4 advantage.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Detroit pulled within one when DeKeyser’s blast from the point got through traffic and behind Gibson.
The Wings made it interesting in the final minute, but Gibson and the Ducks did a superb job of crowding the crease and secure their win.
The loss is the Wings’ fifth straight at home (0-4-1). Detroit’s last win on home ice was Dec. 20 in a 4-2 decision against Calgary.
ANAHEIM 4, DETROIT 3
SCORING: 1. ANA, Perry (Rakell, Maroon), 2:28; 2. Kesler (Getzlaf, Silfverberg), 6:41; DeKeyser (Pulkkinen, Tatar), 18:44.
PENALTIES: 1. ANA, Silfverberg (high sticking), 3:03; 2. ANA, Rakell (boarding), 16:33.
SHOTS: Detroit 8 (27), Anaheim 9 (35).