DETROIT - Any win is still a win, but there’s no doubt that Detroit’s 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins meant just a little bit more to goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Not only did Howard earn his 150th career win Wednesday night, but he stopped 33 of 35 shots, nearly twice as many as opposing netminder Tuukka Rask, to help the Red Wings defy all odds and defeat the Atlantic Division champions.
“It’s a good confidence-booster, not only for myself but I think everyone,” Howard said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league. For us to come back and grit out a win like that is huge. Tats (Tomas Tatar) with a great second-effort there to kick it over to his countryman and then Gus (Gustav Nyquist) just using his speed on the outside to blow by (Zdeno) Chara and finish it off. It was huge. Being as young as we are in this dressing room, hearing the place erupt like that I think just fires ‘em all up.”
The goaltender single-handedly kept the Wings in the game against the Bruins, allowing just two goals through the first 40 minutes, while stopping 23 shots during that time.
When Detroit’s offense caught a spark in the third period, the club used goals from Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist to hand Boston its first regulation loss on the road since its 4-2 setback in Los Angeles on Jan. 9.
“We watched them I thought for two periods and they beat us to all the pucks,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It didn’t look like we wanted the puck, our D had to work really hard ‘cause our forwards didn’t have the puck ever. So our goaltending was good and we survived and we found a way to get playing, get skating a little bit and we were fortunate enough to be opportunistic and score some goals.”
Howard’s arguably most significant save was made late in the first period to keep the Wings within one goal of Boston. Center Patrice Bergeron tried to take advantage of a breakaway on a power play but was swiftly denied by Detroit’s goaltender.
The save marked just one of Bergeron’s six shots that were stopped by Howard, snapping the center’s seven-game goal streak and the team’s 16-game point streak.
“They got on top of us for two periods and they’re a heavy team and if they get to work it in the offensive zone they can definitely wear on you,” Howard said. “That’s their game plan, to get on top of other team’s defense and use their big bodies and take pucks to the net. We were able to weather the storm for two periods and the kids got us going in the third.”
The kids, Tomas Tatar, Jurco and Nyquist, netted all three of Detroit’s in the victory, as they continue to provide key offensive contributions to keep the Wings in the playoff race.
“It’s been tough this year watching the young guys and hoping guys get back here,” Howard said. “We’ve done a good job to keep ourselves above the red line (on the standings board) and watching the way these young guys, the way they’ve come along this year and the way they’ve grown, it shows how bright this organization is in the future.”
But there’s no doubt that the veteran goaltender and First Star of the game, who is 6-3-1 in his last ten starts, earned the spotlight against the Bruins.
"All the way throughout the game, he was excellent,” said Nyquist, who extended his point streak to 10 games in the victory. “He's been excellent for us for a while now so it's great to see."
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea