Jimmy Howard on the difference Tuesday for the Red Wings in the win over the Canucks. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit – Goaltender Jimmy Howard continues to give his team a chance to win, and the Detroit Red Wings are taking advantage of it.
Howard was arguably the Wings’ best player again Tuesday and it resulted in a 3-2 shootout victory over Vancouver.
Howard stopped 40 shots in regulation time and overtime, then stopped all three Canucks shooters in the shootout.
Dylan Larkin scored the lone goal for the Wings in the shootout, but it was enough to get the Wings an extra points in the standings (5-8-2, 12 points).
But if not for Howard’s performance, the Wings wouldn’t have had a prayer to even swipe a point.
“I would say so,” said forward Gustav Nyquist, of whether Howard has been the team’s most consistent player. “It’s hard to argue that with the way he’s playing every game. He’s giving us a chance to win. It’s huge for us.”
Nyquist tied the game 2-2 early in the third period, then Howard stopped all 14 shots he faced in the final period to send the game to overtime.
Coach Jeff Blashill talks about the Red Wings' win over the Canucks. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“Part of being resilient is guys stepping up and making plays at big moments, and for a goaltender it’s making a whole bunch of saves,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He was a big difference that way.
“You go over the course of the last couple of seasons, he’s been excellent. Coming out of the break last year he wasn’t as good in that little stretch, but other than that, he’s been real good. There’s a real competitive fire to him; he wants to win bad.”
The Little Caesars Arena crowd began chanting Howard’s name throughout the overtime and shootout, although he said he didn’t hear them.
Howard did enjoy how the Wings rallied from a 2-0 deficit, and gradually found their game Tuesday night.
“It’s just going out there and working hard for 60 minutes and realizing this game has a lot of ups and downs,” Howard said. “If you just continue to stick to it and continue to keep working for 60 minutes, you’ll get bounces, and we were able to and get two points.”
The shootout win was the Wings’ first of the season in two games.
Justin Abdelkader (power play) scored the Wings’ first goal, while star rookie Elias Pettersson and Ben Hutton had goals for the Canucks (9-6-1, 19 points).
Much of the talk entering the game centered on the opportunity for Wings fans to see Pettersson, the early favorite for NHL rookie of the year. Pettersson, 19, leads all rookie scorers with 16 points despite missing six games.
Pettersson wasn’t overwhelming in this game, yet found a way to make an impact with a beautiful first-period goal.
Pettersson took an outlet pass from Loui Eriksson and raced up wing. Pettersson wound up from the top of the left circle and drilled a slap shot that beat Howard high, dinged off the post and found the back of the net.
It was Pettersson’s 10th goal and gave the Canucks a quick lead.
“You tip your hat, that was an unbelievable shot,” Howard said. “That kid is going to be special. (The shot is) comparable to (Tampa’s Nikita) Kucherov, the way he can pull it in and shoot it. When he gets it off, it’s quick.”
Most Wings players and Blashill agreed the turning point Tuesday occurred in the second period.
Hutton’s goal put Vancouver ahead 2-0, the goal coming after the Wings challenged it for offside, only to have video confirm it was a goal.
Because the Wings lost an offside challenge, they were assessed a penalty, which they killed convincingly.
That seemed to spark the Wings, who shortly later scored on Abdelkader’s power-play goal.
“We played our best hockey after we killed that penalty,” Blashill said. “It gave us momentum, we scored on the power play.
“Overall, for a second game in a row, we had too many what I’d call unforced errors. We have to get the puck out of our zone better.”