Jimmy Howard on Friday's 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Friday night. The Detroit News
Detroit — This was better, this was progress compared to how the Red Wings looked earlier in the week.
The Red Wings were a different team on the ice Friday from the one that looked so poor against Carolina.
But, ultimately, talent wins. On most nights these days, the Wings just don't have as much as the other team.
The Winnipeg Jets are one of the best teams in the NHL and Friday patiently took the Wings' best punches before finally defeating them 2-1.
Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien skated in from the point and snapped a shot that bounced high over Jimmy Howard and behind him. Byfuglien's second goal of the season, and breaking a 1-1 tie with 6:45 left in the game.
“He came in and got a good shot off,” Howard said. “It went off my shoulder and hit the side of my helmet and dropped in there.”
And, just like that, the Red Wings were bound for another loss. Though this one felt like progress.
“A step in the right direction,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We still have a ways to go but a step in the right direction. Our start was a lot better. Our first period had some jump. Howie (Jimmy Howard), again, obviously, he was good.
“But there are definitely things to work on.”
Andreas Athanasiou (power play) scored for the Wings, as they continued to struggle to manufacture offense, getting outshot 40-28.
The Wings fell to 1-7-2 (4 points), having lost two consecutive games after finally getting into the win column. Winnipeg is 7-3-1 (15 points).
Coach Jeff Blashill on the Red Wings' progress in a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg. The Detroit News
“One thing you’re going to have to have is a short memory and worry about getting better every day and focus on the game ahead,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “The results don’t show it, that can be frustrating, but the reality is you take away the first period against a real team, a team most would consider a Stanley Cup contender, and we did tons of good stuff that will lead to longer term success.”
Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit stopped 27 shots.
Howard was outstanding for the Wings, stopping 38 shots, particularly in the second period when the Jets outshot the Wings 21-4 and tied the game on a Kyle Connor (Shelby Township) power-play goal.
Jets forward Blake Wheeler drove to the net — the puck got kicked behind the net — but Wheeler centered the puck to Connor alone in the slot.
The power-play goal from the Jets felt like it was going to happen — and it finally did.
It was the third consecutive power play for the Jets — two Athanasiou slashing calls, and a Tyler Bertuzzi hooking penalty. The only reason Winnipeg hadn’t scored until then was Howard, whether on the power play or even strength.
“Jimmy has played real well, obviously the second period, he was outstanding,” Blashill said. “They had some real chances, real shooters, and he was outstanding.”
Howard, like many of the Wings’ veterans, have never gone through a start to a season as disappointing as this one.
“Just keep going,” said Howard, talking about the team’s mindset. “It’s one of those things none of us want to go through but we are and we just have to keep moving forward.”