Detroit — That long homestand before the holidays didn’t go very well for the Red Wings.
But this one is going nicely.
The Red Wings won their fourth consecutive game during this stretch at Little Caesars Arena on Friday, defeating the Florida Panthers, 4-2.
And give much of the credit for this victory, and this winning streak, to goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Stopping 38 Panthers shots Friday, and raising his save percentage to .960 during this streak, Howard has been a big reason for this Red Wings surge.
“Howie has been real good here,” said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who reached the 600-assist milestone Friday. “Lately he’s been taking it to another level. Obviously it helps us when he’s playing like that.”
Said coach Jeff Blashill: “Howie stole the game, in totality.”
Howard has been, arguably, the Red Wings’ best player this entire season. But during this winning streak, Howard has provided elite goaltending that has put the team over the top.
Jimmy Howard on the Red Wings getting the bounces on this winning streak. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“The guys are allowing me to see the puck,” Howard said of the hot streak. “Most goalies in this league, when they’re allowed to see the puck, they’ll make the first save.
“When you’re in a zone and going out there and playing, we’re playing almost every other night so there’s not a lot of thinking going on.”
The Red Wings (17-16-7) close out this five-game homestand Sunday against NHL-leading Tampa Bay. They have won five straight overall at LCA overall.
“We know we had a bad stretch here before,” Zetterberg said. “It’s nice to reward the fans with some W’s.”
Anthony Mantha (power play) and Gustav Nyquist scored third-period goals to break a 2-2 tie.
Jeff Blashill on the Red Wings' victory over the Florida Panthers. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Mantha scored at 8:03 of the third period on the power play, deflecting Martin Frk’s one-timer for his team-leading 14th goal.
Nyquist took a pass from Henrik Zetterberg down the middle of the ice — Zetterberg’s 600th assist puts him sixth on the Red Wings’ all-time list — broke free on the breakaway, and snuck the puck past Reimer.
Florida had tied the game 2-2 on Aleksander Barkov’s goal early in the third period.
Jeff Blashill on Henrik Zetterberg getting his 600th career assist. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“A lot of games earlier in the season we had the lead and gave it up, let it slip away,” said Andreas Athanasiou, who opened the Red Wings’ scoring. “Tonight, it was a good job of us not giving up the lead and fighting back and getting the win.”
Tomas Tatar scored the other Red Wings goal.
What is promising for the Red Wings is the close games they were losing earlier this season, they’re now winning.
“A lot of it is we’re getting bounces right now,” Howard said. “When things weren’t going well, we were just coming up short, we weren’t getting bounces.
“Now, we are and we have to roll with it.”