LOS ANGELES - Jimmy Howard looked like one of the Detroit Red Wings' great goalies of the past in stopping a career-high 51 shots. When it was over, the rookie still thought of himself as Chris Osgood's backup.
Howard made 27 saves in the second period and 14 in the third, leading the Red Wings to 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
"He was huge," defenceman Brad Stuart said. "He might have stolen a couple of points for us."
Osgood, who needs four wins to become the 10th NHL goalie with 400, has started in only six of Detroit's last 28 games after giving up five goals at Toronto on Nov. 7. He has not allowed more than three in any start since, but he will probably have to watch Howard play a little longer.
"I can't say I'm the number one goalie, that's for sure," Howard said. "I mean, there's a guy sitting right over there that's got three Stanley Cups and almost 400 wins. I'm just going out there and playing."
Darren Helm scored the winning goal with 18 seconds left in the game, and Dan Cleary scored in the final second of the first period to help Detroit beat Los Angeles for the sixth straight time as the Kings opened a seven-game homestand.
Howard stopped the first 51 shots he faced - including eight by Anze Kopitar - before Ryan Smyth's power-play goal tied it with 4:22 left on the Kings' final shot, and his ninth. It extended Smyth's goal streak to four.
"Howard played great," Kings defenceman Drew Doughty said. "He made a lot of really good saves - and some lucky ones. He had the luck and he kept them in the game. I thought we did pretty much everything we could, except get the puck past him."
Coming off a 4-1 loss at Anaheim on Tuesday, Howard made his career-high seventh consecutive start. He was brilliant during the final 2Â?? minutes of the second period when he protected Detroit's 1-0 lead with 12 rapid-fire saves - most while he was seated.
Los Angeles' second-period shot total eclipsed the previous franchise record of 26. It was the first time the Kings had at least 50 shots since Feb. 13, 1997, against Toronto.
"It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it," Howard said. "It was fun to be a part of a game like that. I just continued to battle and the guys continued to battle in front of me. They stayed the course and bailed me out a couple of times when I left some terrible rebounds in front, so I've got to credit them for a lot of my success.
"I don't know if I could have lasted another five minutes."
Helm put Detroit back in front with his fourth goal in four games. He wrestled the puck from defenceman Sean O'Donnell in the right corner and threw it at the net, where it trickled under Jonathan Quick's pads for his seventh of the season.
The Red Wings had 14 shots in the first period after going almost seven minutes before recording their first. They grabbed the lead with 0.2 seconds left.
The Kings had just killed a power play when Cleary converted a rebound for his eighth goal after Quick denied Brian Rafalski and Valtteri Filppula. Quick finished with 23 saves.
Cleary sat out 12 games after separating his shoulder Dec. 9 against St. Louis. Henrik Zetterberg another key component of Detroit's sputtering power play, also returned after missing eight games with a separated left shoulder. But left winger Tomas Holmstrom was sidelined after breaking his foot during practice Wednesday.
Holmstrom, who leads the Red Wings with 15 goals, is expected to be out at least three weeks. He hadn't missed a game this season.
NOTES: Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom hasn't scored a goal in 40 games. His longest drought is 48 in 1992-93, when he had a career-low seven in 84 games. He is one of eight NHL defencemen with 100 shots this season, but has scored only one goal - on a deflection. ... The Red Wings are 2 for 41 on the power play over their last 11 games. ... Zetterberg has scored two goals in 17 games since a hat trick on Nov. 14 against Anaheim. ... Detroit LW Kirk Maltby hasn't recorded a point in 26 games.