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Howard's brilliance not good enough for a win

by Roger Phillips
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 44 shots on Friday night. He mixed it up with Joe Pavelski after the Sharks' center gave him a second-period snow shower. He held the lead for most of the night, even as the Sharks were dominating the second period, when they outshot Detroit 18-9.

In the end, though, after a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 of the Wings' Western Conference Semifinal series at HP Pavilion, Howard was far from satisfied.

"Not enough," Howard said as he sat in the silent Wings dressing room following his team's fourth loss in five games against the Sharks this season. "It doesn't matter. All that matters is wins right now."

That said, Howard's performance was a definite bright spot despite the Red Wings' first loss in this year's playoffs. He looked cool and collected in goal, even when the Sharks were bombarding him for the first 15 minutes of the second period.

Howard's best save came early in the second, when Pavelski cut to the net and elevated a forehand shot at him from point-blank range. Howard deftly plucked the puck out of the air, silencing the sellout crowd of 17,562, at least for a while.

A few minutes later, Pavelski drove to the net again. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock complained that it was hot in the building Friday, but if Pavelski was trying to cool Howard off by sending snow flying in his face, Howard was unappreciative. He took a poke at Pavelski with his glove, and both players received roughing penalties.

Afterward, Howard shrugged off the incident.

"It's playoffs," he said. "Just emotions. Leave it at that."
It seemed for most of the night as if Howard would hold off the Sharks and the Red Wings would steal a road win. Though he did make some tough saves, he also credited his defense with limiting the Sharks' close-in chances.

"I saw most of (the Sharks' shots)," Howard said. "My guys did a really good job in front of me, tying up sticks, and if there was a rebound, helping me clear it out."

Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said, "We knew they were going to throw a lot of picks at the net. For the most part I thought we did a good job pushing them to the outside but they still had a lot of shots at us."

It was on a rebound that the Sharks evened the score midway through the third period. With the Sharks on a power play, Pavelski got behind defenseman Niklas Kronwall and batted home the rebound of a shot by Joe Thornton. It was the only one of the Sharks' 14 power-play shots that eluded Howard.

"I thought Howie was good tonight," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I think the penalty-killing was good, and a huge part of penalty killing is goaltending."

Howard played a big role in killing Justin Abdelkader's double minor for high sticking in overtime. But there was little he could do when the Sharks' Benn Ferriero flipped the puck toward the net shortly after Abdelkader's penalty expired. The puck hit the shaft of defenseman Brad Stuart's stick. Fooled by the change of direction, Howard allowed the puck to skitter between his legs.

"I just want to give the guys a chance to win every single night," Howard said. "That's my job."
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