COLUMBUS, Ohio – Catch-up hockey is losing hockey.
Those words, made popular by a former Red Wings’ coach, were never truer than they are now for the Red Wings who have played less than five minutes – total – with a lead this month.
“I don’t know. It could be a lot of things,” said Justin Abdelkader, as he searched for answers Thursday morning. “I just think with us we gotta be a team that limits our turnovers. I think once we start turning pucks over we give teams opportunities to come back on us. We’re a team that if we can use our speed and our skating ability and get pucks behind defensemen and get pucks through the neutral zone, I think we can be a really good team. That’s just part of doing things right for 60 minutes.”
The Red Wings, who are in Columbus tonight, began the day as the No. 9 seed with 79 points, trailing Philadelphia by one point in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
In seven games this month, Detroit is 2-5-0, and its only lead came in the final 4:36 against Winnipeg after Abdelkader scored to lift the Wings to a 3-2 win over the Jets on March 10. Even in their 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers two nights later, the Wings trailed throughout until Darren Helm provided Detroit with its second straight comeback victory.
Unfortunately, those wins have been sandwiched by losses to Chicago (twice), Columbus, Toronto and Philadelphia where the Wings never led.
“You look at the shots, I understand how everybody says, ‘Oh, you didn’t start well.’ We started fine,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said, referring to Tuesday’s 4-3 loss at Philadelphia. “Our first 5-6 minutes were good. We had a chance in front of the net. I thought we had two opportunities to draw penalties that didn’t get called. That’s the way it goes. Once we got scored on, we got scored on right away again and we got on our heels a little bit. We gotta do a better job of being resilient in those situations. But to be honest with you, we’re looking forward to a big game here tonight.”
In recent seasons, the Jackets have caused fits for the Wings, posting a 10-2-2 record in the past 14 games, including 6-1-1 at Nationwide Arena against Detroit.
Jimmy Howard gets the start tonight against the Blue Jackets, who have lost four of their past six games. Howard has an 11-6-3 all-time record with a 2.00 goals-against average and .926 save percentage against Columbus.
Finally, the Red Wings scored in the first period.
Luke Glendening’s tip off of Riley Sheahan’s blast from the top of the slot was the first first-period goal scored by Detroit in six games. Gustav Nyquist tallied in the first during a 4-1 loss to Chicago at the United Center in March 6.
It’s also just the second time the Wings have played with a lead this month.
Playing in just his second NHL game, Anthony Mantha slid hard into the right goal post behind Jackets’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky late in the period. It appeared the rookie slammed his ribs in the metal post. He managed to skate slowly off the ice with trainer Piet Van Zant by his side. Once he reached the bench though Mantha headed straight down the tunnel to the Red Wings’ dressing room.
DETROIT 1, COLUMBUS 0
SCORING: 1. DET, Glendening (Sheahan, Athanasiou), 10:23.
PENALTIES: 1. CBJ, Karlsson (high-sticking), 7:28; 2. CBJ, Hartnell (high-sticking), 13:09.
SHOTS: Detroit 9, Columbus 5.
The Red Wings’ penalty killers were called into action to defend against a pair of Jackets’ power plays in the second period. Abdelkader, Glendening and Jonathan Ericsson all had clearing attempts that made it out of the defensive zone as Kyle Quincey and Henrik Zetterberg served back-to-back penalties.
Brendan Smith and Howard teamed up to make a big defensive stop on Nick Foligno late in the period. As the Jackets’ captain coasted down the right wing, Smith made a diving play from behind to disrupt the scoring chance. Howard still needed to make a heads-up play to cover the puck, which got knocked off Foligno’s stick, before it could cross the goal line.
Moments later, Foligno set up Scott Hartnell, whose rising shot hit a kneeling Howard in the shoulder. As the goalie flinched the puck rolled down his right arm and landed next to the left goal post where Hartnell battled with Mike Green. But Hartnell’s second attempt struck the side of the cage.
DETROIT 1, COLUMBUS 0
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Quincey (holding), 2:29; 2. DET, Zetterberg (interference), 5:12; 3. CBJ, Dubinsky (holding), 18:36.
SHOTS: Detroit 7 (16), Columbus 13 (17).
The Red Wings opened the period with 36 seconds left of a power play as Brendan Dubinsky served the rest of his holding penalty that carried over from the end of the second period.
With 14:37 left in regulation the Red Wings used their timeout ahead of a faceoff deep in the D-zone.
Zetterberg gave the Wings a two-goal cushion with 12:44 left, scooping a rebound over Bobrovsky. Abdelkader had the initial shot but the Jackets’ goalie gave up a juicy rebound for the Wings’ captain who collected his 13th goal of the season.
Dylan Larkin was credited with a secondary assist, giving him 41 points on the season and sole possession of 14th all-time on the franchise’s rookie points list. He’s one point shy of tying radio analyst Paul Woods, who produced 42 points in 1977-78.
Helm scored his third goal in his past three games to pad the Red Wings’ lead, 3-0, late in the period.
Howard was definitely a bright spot for the Wings, who were desperate for a win.
The win lifts the Red Wings back into the second wild card position. Detroit now has 81 points to the Flyers’ 80.
DETROIT 3, COLUMBUS 1
SCORING: 1. DET, Zetterberg (Abdelkader, Larkin), 7:16; 2. Helm (Glendening), 12:35; 3. CBJ Wennberg PPG (Atkinson, Jenner), 19:00.
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Smith (hooking), 18:49.
SHOTS: Detroit 6 (22), Columbus 11 (28).