Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith did his best to lift the spirits of struggling goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Howard deemed Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets as "unacceptable" after he was relieved in the second period for the second consecutive start. While the veteran netminder yielded four goals on 14 shots, Smith told reporters that the team needs to play better in front of him.

"We have to help Jimmy out because Jimmy has been helping us out. He's been fantastic this year." https://t.co/CtAGrPtEwt

-- Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 30, 2015

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Via DetroitRedWings.com:

"We have to help Jimmy out because Jimmy has been helping us out. He's been fantastic this year. ... Whether we execute with our passes or block maybe an extra shot, I don't know what 'that' is, but we're gonna figure it out and play a better game to help him."

Defensive letdowns notwithstanding, Howard has permitted seven goals on 20 shots in 36 minutes over his last two starts.

Four goals on 14 shots for Jimmy Howard tonight at Winnipeg, 3 goals on 6 shots last Tuesday vs. Devils.

— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 30, 2015

The 31-year-old has limped to a 7-5-4 mark with a 2.66 goals-against average for the Red Wings (18-12-4), who have dropped six of their last eight outings (2-4-2).