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Howard's redemption

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Could Jimmy Howard rebound any better after the Red Wings’ Game 3 loss in the Western Conference quarterfinals?

In Tuesday’s Game 4, Howard stopped 29 shots en route to his first career playoff shutout in a 3-0 win over Phoenix that has tied the playoff series at 2-2.

Game 5 is on Friday in Glendale, Ariz.

“It was nice for him to get a shutout, and kind of quiet down the critics,” said forward Henrik Zetterberg, who scored the Wings’ last goal Tuesday.

“It feels great,” Howard said on getting the shutout. “I’m going to enjoy it here for a couple of minutes, and then like I did the other night, completely forget about it and get ready for Friday.”

Howard made good on his promise to rebound and refocus after an uncharacteristically inconsistent showing on Sunday, where he allowed four goals on 33 shots. Three he said he wished he could have taken back.

The crowd at Joe Louis Arena loved watching Howard redeem himself, where many wondered whether the rookie netminder could handle the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs, despite his stellar play during the regular-season.

“He’s been playing good for us all year, and we know he’s going to play good for us in the post-season too,” Zetterberg said.

Howard seemed to be unstoppable on Tuesday. He did whatever he needed to do to make saves, making all of the initial stops and smothering rebound after rebound. With 2:48 left in the second period, he even lost his helmet while sprawling to cover a puck.

“I would have taken it off the face if I had to,” Howard laughed. “I just felt like I really had to compete for these guys (Tuesday), and really put forth a better effort, and that’s what I was trying to do here.”

Zetterberg wasn’t surprised at Howard’s effort, saying “(Howard’s) a fighter. That’s what he does.

“He doesn’t want to let any pucks behind him, and I’m sure it doesn’t matter if he has a helmet on or not.”

While the Wings’ defensive play was much better on Tuesday, it was Howard that stopped a barrage of shots as the Coyotes ended the game 0-for-6 with the man-advantage, and even had 17 seconds with a five-on-three advantage.

“Any goaltender, you want to try to get pucks around the net and get traffic around the net,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said, whose own netminder Ilya Bryzgalov was named a Vezina Trophy nominee as the NHL’s best goaltender on Monday.

“(Howard) showed the last half of the season he was a quality goaltender.”

Throughout the game, the 20,066 fans began roaring chants of “Jimmy, Jimmy!”

“Hearing that, it was a great boost,” Howard said. “It really got me fired up.”

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