Shootouts have plagued Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings shooters this season. The team has lost eight of 12 shootouts along with three overtime losses.
Sitting three slots out of the wild card slot in the Eastern Conference, the team was looking for an answer from two essential elements returning to the lineup.
“We got Howie back, so that’s one of the big keys,” Babcock said. “Ever since the Winter Classic, Howie’s been like Howie is, so he’s capable of doing good things for you. He can hold you in, he made huge saves on the penalty kill late, they had good chances and he made great saves. That’s a big part of it.”
Mike Babcock has been struggling to put together the whiteboard in his office all season long. Injuries have been a pressing issue all season and the Red Wings staff have had their hands full trying to develop young players to fill the slots of recovering veterans.
Before Friday’s game, the Washington Capitals were disappointed in goaltender Braden Holtby. He let up five goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets the night before. Michal Neuvirth replaced Holtby in net against the Wings. The young goaltender stopped 45 of 42 shots and was truly tested by the cohesiveness of the Detroit offense.
“We played last night, on the road, a hard-fought game. They were home resting,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “We came out, on the road, and got a point. You would have wanted two; (Neuvirth) stopped (six) shots in the shootout to give us a chance, but their goalie was that much better.”
Jimmy Howard returned in between the pipes on Friday, relieving Jonas Gustavsson, who had let up five goals against the Flyers three days prior. Howard (10-12-8) had been suffering with groin and knee issues for a large chunk of the season.
Although the former all-star goaltender only faced 29 shots and let up three goals against, he still showed off his skills against several strong scoring chances from top-line Capital offenders, Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom.
“I felt surprisingly good, I didn’t have any issues at all with the knee, which I think is a great sign because I came back last time and still felt it every once in a while,” Howard said. “But I didn’t feel it at all tonight so I think that’s a great sign moving forward.”
The Red Wings had control of the game until Alex Ovechkin tied the game up with seven seconds left in the third period, sending the game into overtime. After the five-minute sudden death, nothing was decided and the game progressed into a shootout.
Thirteen of 14 shooters were denied by the opposing goaltender. Red Wings shooter Patrick Eaves was the only goal scorer in the seventh round of the shootout. This gave the Red Wings the deciding factor in winning the game with a score of 4-3.
The team now sits in the last wild card slot with 59 points on the season. They are trying to catch up to their Winter Classic opponents, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have 64 points and two more games played.
They will play the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center in the second game of their home-and-home series on Feb. 2 at 12:30 p.m.
* * *
Information from the Detroit Red Wings was used in this report.
For more information on the Detroit Red Wings and NHL hockey from analysts and journalists at Michigan State University – tune into Octopi Hockeytown podcasts and embrace the Spartan debate at www.impact89fm.org/sports.
Austin Goodman is a multimedia journalist at Impact Sports.
WSH – 15:24 PPG – J. Chimera (Tip-in) N. Backstrom, J. Carlson
DET – 2:09 – D. Miller (Wrist) L. Glendening, P. Eaves
DET – 18:21 – D. DeKeyser (Slap) R. Sheahan
WSH – 8:09 – C. Wellman (Wrist) A. Ovechkin
DET – 10:15 – G. Nyquist (Wrist) Unassisted
WSH – 19:53 – A. Ovechkin (Slap) J. Carlson, J. Chimera
No goals recorded
RD1) DET – D. Alfredsson/ WSH – E. Fehr
RD2) DET – T. Tatar/ WSH – A. Ovechkin
RD3) DET – H. Zetterberg/ WSH – N. Backstrom
RD4) DET – D. Helm/ WSH – C. Wellman
RD5) DET – G. Nyquist/ WSH – T. Brouwer
RD6) DET – R. Sheahan/M. Erat
RD7) DET – P. Eaves/ WSH – J. Beagle
First: Gustav Nyquist
(1G, -1, 3 shots, 19:42 TOI)
Second: Danny DeKeyser
(1G, 3 shots, 1 hit, 2PIM, 23:48 TOI)
Third: Riley Sheahan
(1A, +1, 2 shots, 16:37 TOI)