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Howard shines, steals a point for Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Jimmy Howard used his head on this shot from the point by Boston's Torey Krug in the first period. Howard followed that up by stopping Zdeno Chara's rebound chance. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – A Herculean effort by Jimmy Howard normally would mean two points in the standings for the Red Wings.

But Wednesday, the Wings had to settle for just one after a disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins who escaped Joe Louis Arena with two very big points to stash away in their Atlantic Division coffers.

“Howie won us a point tonight. A performance like that you feel bad for not getting two points,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Howie came up huge and kept us in the game after two periods, gave us a chance. And again in the third he saved us a couple of times, if not more, so we owe this point to Howie.”

Howard easily could have been named the first, second and third stars of the game after making save after save while frustrating some of the Bruins’ top scorers late in the third period and overtime when his rebound control was particularly sharp.

“He saved us big time,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said of his goalie. “Without him we wouldn’t have that point. PK was good, Howie played good, that was about it.”

Playing in his third straight game, Howard had little help on Boston’s first two goals by David Krejci and Reilly Smith. Besides that, Howard was simply outstanding.

The difference for the Bruins came down to the 50-50 chance that is the shootout, where Krejci and Smith, again, provided the scoring for the visitors. Meanwhile, rookie forward Andrej Nestrasil and Gustav Nyquist misfired in the skills competition for the Red Wings (1-1-1).

Howard was definitely the story though, making 37 saves, including five in overtime.

“We had a tough time. They got into our D and we couldn’t move it,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Howie stole us a point.”

The Bruins (2-3-0) never trailed in the game, but each time they led, the Red Wings responded, tying the score first on Tomas Tatar’s first-period goal and finally on Nyquist’s power-play goal early in the third. Nyquist has scored in each of the team’s three games this season.

There was little Howard could do on the Bruins’ regulation tallies. He didn’t get much help from his defense on either scoring play. But he certainly kept the Wings in the game with several other outstanding saves.

He stopped 12 shots in the first period, including a flurry on the Bruins’ lone power-play chance of the frame. He made two huge back-to-back saves on defensemen Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. With Chara camped out in front of his crease, Howard first stopped Krug’s rising blast from the right point with his mask. Quick to react to the loose puck, Chara tried to beat the Wings’ goalie on the short side with a sweeping backhand. But recovering in the nick of time from the shot that rattled his cage, Howard made a splendid pad save.

“I looked up and there was four minutes left in the first period and they had won 11 faceoffs and we had one two,” Babcock said. “That’s the easiest one-on-one battle in the game. We didn’t have the puck and we were chasing it. That’s a lot of work and then they end up on top of you. Last game we played them we looked way quicker, they were way quicker than us (tonight) because they won every battle.”

Howard had his work cut out again and again throughout the night. His next best individual effort occurred in the second period when he made a terrific glove save while doing the splits on Brad Marchand’s point blank shot to keep the score at 1-1 with 13:27 left.

Almost instantly after play was stopped, the Hockey Jockey at JLA paid homage to Howard’s acrobatics by playing a snippet of Van Halen’s ‘Top Jimmy’ over the public-address system.

His regal outing is something Howard is accustom to having throughout his career against the Bruins. He entered Wednesday’s game with a 5-1-0 career record in six regular-season starts against the Bruins. His 1.97 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage was second only to his personal-best cumulative numbers against Edmonton.

On the flip side, Boston goalie Tuukka Rask – who earned the Vezina Trophy last season as the league’s best goaltender – has traditionally struggled against the Red Wings. He’s now 2-5-1 in eight regular-season contests against Detroit.

Through the first three games, Howard has given the Red Wings a chance every night. He’s allowed just six goals and helped the penalty kill remain perfect at 10-for-10.

“He was phenomenal,” Nyquist said. “He was the one that kept us in the game and saved a point for us there. All the way throughout the game he was our best player.”

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