"Jimmy Howard is my favorite thing about this game," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We weren't good enough tonight. They outplayed us, and Jimmy gave us a chance to win the game."
Dennis Cholowski, Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin scored for Detroit (14-13-4), which has at least a point in five of its past seven games (4-2-1).
[WATCH: All Kings vs. Red Wings highlights]
"It was a sloppy game, but we capitalized on our chances," Larkin said. "We didn't play our best, but [Howard] was on. He's the main reason we got two points."
Anze Kopitar scored and Jonathan Quick made 18 saves for Los Angeles (11-19-1), which has lost five of its past seven games and has scored two or fewer goals in 12 of its past 17.
"We had a lot of chances, but we also gave up too many," Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "Sure, we could have scored a couple more goals, but so could they, and we don't score enough to play that kind of hockey."
Video: LAK@DET: Nielsen nets own rebound on the doorstep
The Red Wings had given up four multigoal leads in their previous three games, but were able to hold on against the Kings after jumping ahead 3-0.
"There have been a lot of blown two-goal leads, and one that was three goals, but tonight we did a better job of playing with a lead," Howard said. "We bent, but we didn't break."
Cholowski gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 6:32 of the first period, taking a pass from Christoffer Ehn and scoring on a wrist shot into the top of the net.
"I'm not out there looking to score goals," Cholowski said. "I just want to play my game and jump into the offense at the right times."
Matt Luff nearly tied the game at 1:44 of the second period, but Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson slid across the crease to block the shot.
"It's still 1-0 at that point, so that's a huge play," Howard said. "If he doesn't block that, who knows what might have happened."
The Kings had several odd-man rushes early in the second period but couldn't score.
"We scored five goals in our last game (5-1 win against Vegas Golden Knights), and then we didn't do anything again tonight," Kings forward Adrian Kempe said. "If we put away one of those great chances in the second period, we probably win the game."
Nielsen made it 2-0 at 6:06 of the second period, getting his own rebound and scoring into an open net for his fifth goal in six games.
Larkin extended the lead to 3-0 at 18:08, intercepting Derek Forbort's clearing pass in the slot, skating around Drew Doughty and beating Quick from in front. Larkin has seven points (two goals, five assists) in a four-game point streak.
"I thought I'd seen Doughty slide in situations like that a couple times, so I was figuring he would do that," Larkin said. "I saw it unfold right in front of me."
Said Blashill, "That shows the depth that Dylan Larkin goes to improve his game. That's something he found on his own, and then he used it against one of the best defensemen in this League."
Kopitar cut it to 3-1 at 13:22 of the third period, getting his own rebound at the right post and scoring off Howard's skate.
"We got 43 shots and we had a lot of 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 rushes, but we only scored one goal," Kopitar said. "We can't be satisfied by just creating chances, we need to start scoring."
Video: LAK@DET: Larkin bags terrific goal off turnover
They said it
"We played hard, we created a lot of chances, and that's probably the best third period we've played in five or six games. There were a lot of good signs out there tonight, but we have to start capitalizing on our chances." -- Kings coach Willie Desjardins
"He has shown excellent offensive instincts this season, more than I expected from him at the start of the season. I think that goes to show just how hard he worked this summer to develop his game." -- Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski
Video: LAK@DET: Cholowski roofs short-side shot past Quick
Need to know
Cholowski is tied with Miro Heiskanen of the Dallas Stars for second in the NHL in goals among rookie defensemen with five. Maxime Lajoie of the Ottawa Senators is first with six. … All 18 skaters for the Kings had at least one shot on goal; Tyler Toffoli led them with eight. ... Los Angeles had 81 shot attempts. Detroit had 43. … Each team was called for one minor penalty.
Kings: At the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNO, MSG-B, FS-W, NHL.TV)
Red Wings: At the Washington Capitals on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV)
Video: Howard, offense lead Red Wings past Kings, 3-1