Blue Jackets swarm Red Wings, hand them another shutout
The Red Wings, one evening after a rare victory, ran into the wrong team while attempting to start a winning streak.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, the NHL's best team since early December, played to their strengths Friday and defeated the Wings 2-0.
So 24 hours after securing a win in Buffalo and ending a nine-game losing streak, the Wings (13-39-4) fell back into the loss column.
Columbus (30-16-9) has won 10 of its last 11 games, and since a ragged start to the season has been nearly unbeatable. The Blue Jackets are 19-2-5 since Dec. 9.
Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who has been sensational during the Jackets' hot streak, stopped 16 shots and won his eighth consecutive decision. Merzlikins also posted his fifth shutout in that eight-game span, tying a record set in 1938.
The shutout defeat was the Red Wings' league-most seventh this season.
The Jackets used Merzlikins' goaltending, a suffocating defense, and goals from Grosse Pointe native Zach Werenski (Michigan) and Boone Jenner (empty net) .
Goaltender Jimmy Howard made 42 saves, a season high, but hasn't won since Oct. 29.
The Wings killed all three Columbus power plays, but a delayed penalty did cost them, leading to Werenski's goal.
Jenner scored an empty-net goal at 18:35 of the third period, giving the Jackets an opportunity to finally breathe.
Here are other highlights from Friday’s game:
The Blue Jackets carried the play, outshooting the Red Wings 10-5, and had a 21-11 edge in shot attempts.
Robby Fabbri had the Wings’ best chance, making a nifty move and clean shot on net, but hitting the post.
Columbus had a pair of good chances on Jimmy Howard.
Oliver Bjorkstrand hit a post with under a minute left in the period, while Markus Nutivaara lost control of the puck skating through the crease.
The Blue Jackets had the lone power-play opportunity in the period and didn’t convert, though Cam Atkinson had a nice chance in the slot.
Werenski opened the scoring with his NHL-leading 17th goal, a Blue Jackets record for a defenseman.
The circumstances leading to the goal were unique.
The Jackets had possession of the puck for 1 minute, 35 seconds on a delayed penalty call, a staggering time frame, before Nick Foligno worked the puck through the slot and deftly found Werenski to his right.
Werenski snapped a quick shot past Howard at 4:57, giving Columbus the lead.
The Jackets had two power plays in the period — the Wings had their second too many men on the ice penalty, one each in the first two periods — but the Wings penalty kill remained strong.
The Red Wings were outshot 21-4 in the second period, but actually had two good scoring opportunities.
Merzlikins turned aside Valtteri Filppula on a 2-on-1 short-handed rush with Justin Abdelkader, sliding post-to-post to bat away Filppula's attempt.
Merzlikins then made a nifty glove slove on Andreas Athanasiou driving through the slot.
The Wings received their first power-play opportunity after a slashing penalty to Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, but didn't pressure at all — and didn't do anything with their second attempt with almost eight minutes left after a slashing call on Pierre-Luc Dubois.
The Wings had little zone time and generated only one shot combined on the power plays, while Columbus spent considerable time around Howard's net.
Merzlikins' best save might have been kicking away a quick shot from Filip Hronek off a rush with just over four minutes remaining.
The Jackets clinched it with Jenner's empty-net goal, moments after Howard had been pulled.
Howard's difficult season continued despite an outing good enough for a different outcome.
The Wings simply didn't provide Howard with any offense, while Howard was making 42 saves against the persistent Jackets.
Howard was at his best in the second period, with the Jackets putting 21 shots on net.
Still, Howard dropped to 2-21-2 for the season, despite making the season-high 42 saves.
Howard has lost 18 consecutive decisions.
The Wings came into the game dealing with nagging injuries impacting the lineup — and it continued through the game.
Already missing forward Frans Nielsen and defenseman Mike Green on a day-to-day basis, coach Jeff Blashill told reporters before the game forward Darren Helm was unavailable because of an injury suffered during Thursday’s game.
Defenseman Madison Bowey and forward Robby Fabbri were both lost in the first period, although Fabbri did return in the second period after taking a shot to the groin area.
Playing his second NHL game, defenseman Gustav Lindstrom built upon a nice debut the night before.
Because of the injury to Bowey, Lindstrom received additional ice time and didn't look out of place against one of the NHL's best teams.
Lindstrom played 20 minutes 26 seconds, and made smart, efficient plays throughout the evening.
The Wings return home Sunday to face Boston (12:30 p.m., NBC/97.1), which entering Friday’s schedule had the league’s best record (33-10-12).