Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/11/11
DETROIT -- The Red Wings cracked the Bulin Wall Friday night. Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came into the game leading all goalies with a 0.98 goals-against average. Yet it was Wings goalie Jimmy Howard who made 24 saves and earned the shutout in the Wings' 3-0 victory over the young Oilers. It was Howard's league-leading third shutout this season. "Jimmy's been maybe our best player so far, together with Nick (Lidstrom)," Niklas Kronwall said. "He's been keeping us in every game pretty much. Even through that slump we had, he was playing unbelievable. "So of course it feels great having him back there and the way he's playing is giving a lot of comfort to our defensive side of the game." During that six-game slump, no one could score. But despite Khabibulin's brilliance, the Wings were able to get to him. First it was Drew Miller, who had the puck pinball off a couple of skates to him in the slot, where he buried it past Khabibulin at 10:35 of the first period. "It was kind of all over the place but that's kind of how I score goals," Miller said. "They're not the pretty ones. It's nice to get that first one out of the way and get the first goal for the team, too." In the second period, it was Kronwall chipping in with a goal, beating Khabibulin with a rocket to his glove side at 2:05. "I think that's something I've been trying to work on, get a little bit more involved and tonight I got it perfect there from Huds (Jiri Hudler), right in the slot and ended up going in this time," Kronwall said. "Nice to see it go in." The Wings had plenty of chances to do more damage in the second when Lennart Petrell picked a fight with Justin Abdelkader and received a double minor, two minutes for instigating and two minutes for instigating with a face shield. But the power play was unable to put a dent in the Bulin Wall, going 0-for-5. Valtteri Filppula scored the final goal on a perfect pass from Henrik Zetterberg at 14:52 of the third period. Zetterberg was playing in his 600th NHL game. "I thought it was a good game for our team," coach Mike Babcock said. "They're a real quick team and I thought they had us under pressure early. I thought we checked well 'til we got kind of skating and going and then I thought we were a pretty good team from that point on. "Khabibulin made some unbelievable saves. I thought our power play was excellent. To go 0-fer, I thought Khabibulin made some great saves and Howie made great saves." Howard, 27, has been a steady presence all season. With Friday night's shutout, he improved to 7-3-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Howard knew that he was going to have to be on top of his game as goals would be at a premium with Khabibulin in the opposing net. "You just know you gotta play well at the other end," Howard said. "He's in a definite zone and you've got to just rise to the challenge." Oilers forward Ryan Smyth, who tied for the Oilers' lead with three shots on net, didn't feel his team bothered Howard enough. "Don't want to take anything away from their performance, (but) we didn't get enough bodies to the net," Smyth said. "We felt like we had some chances, we just couldn't bang it in. We had our chances. But Howard played well." Miller said Howard's been on a mission this year, his third full season in the league. "He's been great," Miller said. "I think you see him come back after last season, hungry to improve. He wants more. He makes big saves for us and gives us a chance to win and that's what you need out of your starting goalie."
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