Detroit won its third consecutive home game and is 5-1 after a slow start to pull within a point of the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
"We aren't winning games in the same fashion that we used to, that's pretty obvious," Babcock said. "But we are finding ways to grind games out and that's what we have to do."
The Red Wings lost players in the summer who combined to score 88 goals last season, including Mikael Samuelsson, who signed with the Canucks.
"They played like last year and the year before that," Samuelsson said. "I don't really see a difference."
The Canucks have lost three in row and close a five-game road trip Saturday at Colorado.
Vancouver outplayed the Red Wings for much of the game but left Joe Louis Arena without a point.
"We played a good road game," Luongo said. "Unfortunately, we don't have much to show for it."
The Canucks outshot Detroit 15-5 in the first period and after an evenly played second period controlled the action in the third until Zetterberg scored at the eight-minute mark.
"We had a lot of chances, just couldn't bury them," Henrik Sedin said. "[Howard] made some big saves."
Steve Yzerman dropped the ceremonial first puck in a pregame ceremony that honored him for being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night. ... Vancouver's Jannik Hansen played for the first time this season, returning from a hand injury. ... Drew Miller made his Detroit debut, a day after being claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He filled in for Kirk Maltby, who was feeling ill. ... Howard earned his second career victory Oct. 27 at Vancouver, where he made 20 saves after Osgood was pulled. ... Holmstrom has nine goals in 17 games after scoring just 14 times last season, when he was slowed by injuries.