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Howard proves his mettle with shutout

by Brian Compton
DETROIT -- Just 48 hours after a shaky performance, Jimmy Howard was anything but, in what was -- up to this point -- the biggest game of his young career.
Howard, who allowed four goals in a 4-2 loss on Sunday, bounced back in a big way as he stopped all 29 shots he faced in the Detroit Red Wings' 3-0 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 4 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal.
It was the first postseason shutout of the rookie's career, one that helped the Red Wings even a series that has now become a best-of-three.
"It feels great," Howard said. "It's special. I think after the season's done, I'll look back on it. I'm going to enjoy it here for a couple of minutes, and then, just like I did the other night, completely forget about it and great ready for Friday night."
With some friendly advice from teammate Chris Osgood, Howard went home after Sunday's loss and rid himself of the memories that game provided. Howard allowed four goals on 33 shots in Game 3.
"You've got to have a short-term memory … you just have to forget about it and move forward," Howard said. "I was given some great advice by Ozzie to just go home and relax and not think about hockey, and that's exactly what I did. It worked."
Nobody in the Wings' dressing room was surprised to see Howard bounce back the way he did. After all, he did win 37 games during the regular season.
"That's what we expect," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "That's what he's done all year long. When it doesn't go his way, usually it's like water off a duck's back. I thought he did a real good job for us. Good for him."
Of course, Howard had some help along the way. His teammates came up huge in the third period, when the Red Wings found themselves down two men for 17 seconds. But the Coyotes failed to generate much against the stifling defense and Detroit pulled away later in the period on goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
"That was huge," Howard said. "We had guys diving, blocking shots. That's how we were playing down the stretch. We played great defensively. Everybody definitely committed to it tonight."
Especially Howard, a likely Calder Trophy candidate who will need to step up again when the teams resume this series in Phoenix on Friday night. And just like there was no pep talk from Babcock prior to Tuesday night's win, there won't be any motivational speeches from the coach before Game 5.
"They've got to find a way themselves," Babcock said. "The good players have all got to survive at this time of year. We needed to win tonight, there's no question about it. That's why you're in sports … for games like this. You've got to bring it when it counts."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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