DETROIT – It took a minute for Jonas Gustavsson to recall the last time he figured in back to back wins on back to back days.
“Oh yeah, I remember now,” said Gustavsson, who last won on back to back days for Toronto in January 2012. “I remember the second game (on Long Island) and they came back with a bad bounce with 10 seconds left and then we won in overtime.”
Starting for the second straight day in place of goalie Jimmy Howard, who is recovering from a bruised left hand, Gustavsson turned in another spectacular performance for the Red Wings who posted a 2-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I felt good,” said Gustavsson, who turned away 36 shots in Tuesday’s win. “We had a game yesterday, so back-to-back, and that was the first couple of games that I played so that was different. It’s just a matter of preparing yourself and be ready to go out and have a good first period because that’s usually the key in these kind of games. Overall, the guys played really well (in front of me) so that made it pretty easy.”
Gustavsson and the Red Wings had to weather a first-period storm by the Blue Jackets, who, as coach Mike Babcock later said, “skated us into the ground.” Columbus fired 18 shots on goal in the first period, which is the most allowed by the Wings this season. But it was the Red Wings who took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission when Daniel Alfredsson scored his first as a Wing.
Alfredsson’s goal came moments after Nikita Nikitin and Artem Anisimov failed to get a shot off on a 2-on-1 breakaway during the waning seconds of a Blue Jackets’ power play. With Jared Boll set to exit the penalty box, the Wings’ cruised into the offensive zone where Alfredsson picked up a loose puck and fired a shot that beat Sergei Bobrovsky two-seconds after the penalty expired at 5:05.
Alfredsson has five points in the last three games, which included a three-assist performance in last Saturday’s win over Philadelphia.
The Red Wings’ defense tightened in the second period, limiting Columbus to eight shots in the middle frame, while maintaining a one goal lead on goals by Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson and Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi, who has two goals in the last three games.
Gustavsson did a fine job of securing the one-goal lead throughout the third period making a pair of great saves. His first was a left pad stop on an initial shot by defenseman James Wisniewski. The Wings’ backup wasn’t in the clear, though, as he had to track the puck as it bounced between the legs and sticks of Brian Lashoff, Drew Miller, Derek MacKenzie and Ryan Murray who jostled in front of the crease. The play was stopped when Gustavsson smothered the puck with his glove.
“I think he was solid tonight,” Miller said. “I think you saw it yesterday afternoon in Boston and he did it again tonight. He’s play well and making the big saves and it wasn’t just the first saves, it was the second saves too, which is big when your goalie is making the big saves and following up with another one.”
The Blue Jackets continued to press in the offensive zone, and had another game-tying effort thwarted by Gustavsson when he made a splendid stop with 5:20 left in regulation. Sliding across the crease to his right, the 6-foot-3 Gustavsson made a save when Jack Johnson’s back-hand shot from point-blank range nestled under the goalie’s left arm.
“I don’t know if I couldn’t get a good push or if I got caught with one of our or their guys, but I had to do something to get some part of my body over there,” Gustavsson said. “Lucky enough that was enough.”
Gustavsson, who has battled groin injuries throughout his time with the Wings, made 28 saves in Monday’s 3-2 win at Boston. It was the first time that Monster won games on back to back days since he defeated the New York Islanders in a home and home series against the Maple Leafs in January 2012.
“It was a good test for me for sure, being out of the lineup injured early on here. That was a good test for my body and my groins felt great, so that’s what I’m most happy about. If it’s a back to back game with a couple of days in between that shouldn’t matter. You should find a way to get ready. So that was the key for me right now to feel like my body can handle this load this early in the season.”
Howard is listed as day to day, but is expected to be ready Thursday when the Red Wings (5-2) travel to Colorado to face the undefeated Avalance at the Pepsi Center.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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