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Central Division gap widened with 4-2 win

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With a big two points on the line within the Central Division, the Red Wings followed up on Friday night's success against the Blue Jackets with a big performance from Jimmy Howard. Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk had great games as usual but the secondary guys like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader had solid contributions. Detroit outshot Columbus 42-29 in the game, including 17 shots on goal in the second period.

Detroit's win widens the gap to four points with a game in hand over Columbus and five games in hand over Chicago. Detroit's 21 game played is the fewest in the league, yet they're only four points back of the league leading Capitals.

Columbus scored the first goal of the game when Derick Brassard deflected an Anton Stralman shot over Jimmy Howard's gloveside with under a minute to play in the first period. Niklas Kronwall tied the game up at the midway point of the game. Pavel Datsyuk gave the puck to Kronwall as he headed down behind Mason's net. Kronwall skated out in front of the net and put a shot on Mason and then followed up on the rebound for the goal. Darren Helm put a loose puck in between Mason's body and his blocker just 14 seconds after Kronwall's goal.

Valtteri Filppula scored the third goal of the game just a minute into the third period on a rebound. RJ Umberger scored with Mason on the bench and Jonathan Ericsson in the box for Detroit. The Blue Jackets were within a goal until Dan Cleary's empty net goal capped off the scoring for the game and sent the hometown crowd home happy.

Analysis and video after the jump.

  • Jimmy Howard had a pretty solid game. I don't think I'll ever fault a goalie for a deflection goal so he's off the book for me on that one. On the second goal, he was screened so it's hard to blame him on that one too. He had some big saves during the game and although he wasn't tested too much, he needed two wins like that in a row to get him going again after three straight poor outings.
  • While we're talking about goalies, I think we should talk about that Steve Mason guy. He was pretty great tonight and kept this from being a pretty big scoring differential. I think he's returned to that rookie year level of play (for now at least) and he showed tonight he's still got that big save potential.
  • Detroit killing a 5-on-3 Columbus power play pretty much sealed the victory tonight. Great work by the PK unit, killing 6 of 7 penalties during the game. Eaves, Helm, Zetterberg and Datsyuk were all big on the PK tonight and after some slumping by those units of late, that's pretty good to see that get back on track.
  • Franzen and Datsyuk added a pair of assists tonight and were pretty big contributors. Datsyuk tallied 7 shots on net and won 63% of his face-offs. Franzen didn't have that big of a statistical performance but he made some good plays in open ice.
  • Kronwall showed some of that good ol' offensive flair that he's showed at times in the past. I think he started off the season in a bit of a funk but has now become more comfortable with his play.
  • Filppula's four minute minor is one that you hate to see happen as a fan for two reasons. First, since it was four minutes you know that it resulted in an injury of some sort for the opposing team (Commodore heading to the locker room). Second, Fil's stick slid up and hit Commodore so it seemed like an accident more than anything.
  • Big ups to Brad Stuart, quiet game from him but he did well tonight, especially playing a ton of time on the PK. Stuart led all players with 5:39 of ice time as a penalty killer. Stuart finished the game with a +2 and made some good plays throughout the game.
Detroit hits the road and plays San Jose on Tuesday.