COLUMBUS — Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had a lot of questions. Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky seemed to have all the answers.
Bobrovsky had 29 saves in his first career shutout, and Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno took advantage of Detroit giveaways to score goals in leading the suddenly hot Blue Jackets to a 3-0 victory over the Red Wings on Saturday.
"Was that mental prep? Maybe the coach wasn't getting his message across? Did we practice too hard yesterday?" Babcock said. "I don't know a lot of the answers. But the bottom line is we weren't mentally prepared to play hard enough and long enough to have success."
His Wings will get a redo at home today when they host Columbus, whose fans are actually looking at the playoff standings for the first time in years.
The Blue Jackets have 10 points in their last six games after getting 12 in their first 19.
Last in the league by a wide margin not so long ago, the Blue Jackets are — incredibly — within reach of the final postseason spot in the West after winning four in a row and earning points in their last six. They've clawed their way back by playing blue-collar, scrambling, gritty hockey — short on talent but off the charts in hard work.
On top of that, Columbus is 3-0-1 against the Red Wings this season.
"We just play the game that they don't want to play," said Derick Brassard, who set up Jack Johnson's power-play goal that made it 2-0.
For a change, they didn't have to work overtime. They had gone to extra time in their previous five games.
"It's nice to play 60 minutes instead of 65," Foligno said with a laugh, after scoring the final goal off Kyle Quincey's turnover.
Bobrovsky, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia last summer for second and fourth-round picks, earned his first career shutout in his 99th NHL game and 16th with Columbus. He was at his best in the third period, stopping difficult shots by Niklas Kronwall, Drew Miller, and Pavel Datsyuk.
"I didn't know that," Bobrovsky said when told the shutout had come just before his 100th game. "I never watch statistics."
He didn't have much to say. Others did.
"He looked really in control," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "There weren't too many loose pucks. Pucks were hitting him and sticking to him. When that happens, you know the goalie is really on top of his game."
In his last 230:43 played, Bobrovsky has a 0.52 goals-against average and a .981 save percentage. He's 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.
Before the crowd of 17,957 — with a liberal sprinkling of Red Wings fans — really settled down, it was 3-0.
"All their three goals were kind of gifts," Datsyuk said. "They really capitalized on it. Sometimes you make mistakes but today we did a little too many."
Jonas Gustavsson got a rare start in place of Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings. Gustavsson, who made 21 saves, was playing in only his fourth game this season.
"I don't know if it's mistakes or it's something else," Gustavsson said. "I just try to worry about my own game. Mistakes can happen. I'm one of the guys who's supposed to help the guys when that happens."
The Red Wings' problems with the power play away from home continued. They were 0 for 3 with a man advantage, making them 0 for 36 on the season on the road with a man advantage.
NOTES: Detroit was without C Valterri Filppula (shoulder) for the sixth game in a row.