LOS ANGELES – More than 10 years ago, a 21-year-old Jimmy Howard made his Red Wings debut and recorded his first NHL win in the City of Angels.
Howard was called up Nov. 28, 2005, filling in for Manny Legace when he went down with a knee injury.
That night, Howard stopped 22 shots in his first game, including a breakaway by Eric Belanger, to guide the Red Wings to a 5-2 win over the Kings.
Coming off a two-week long break, Howard now seeks a triumphant return to the lineup.
Howard last played Dec. 29 at Winnipeg. He was lifted after surrendering four goals on the first 14 shots. It was the second straight game that he was pulled for a poor performance.
The Wings look to remain perfect on their current six-game road trip. Despite being out-shot in each of the first four games of the trip, the Wings have been victorious in each, defeating Buffalo (4-3), New Jersey (1-0), San Jose (2-1) and Anaheim (2-1).
Howard, 31, has posted a 7-5-4 record with a 2.66 goals-against average and .9910 save percentage.
Tonight is the second and final time the Wings and Kings will face this season. Detroit claimed a 3-2 victory when Petr Mrazek made 35 saves on Nov. 20 at Joe Louis Arena.
Tomas Tatar, Mike Green and Dylan Larkin scored for the Wings.
The night couldn’t have started any worse for Howard.
Desperately needing a solid comeback effort, the Wings’ goalie was victimized on the Kings’ first shot of the game. It was the eighth goal that Howard has let up on the last 21 shots faced.
The Kings, on the heels of killing an opening-minute minor penalty, broke out of their zone where Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli sprinted out to an odd-man rush with Wings defenseman Mike Green back.
As Green dropped to the ice in an attempt to cut off the passing lane, Kopitar waited for the Wings’ defenseman to slide by before making a pass to Toffoli on the far side of Howard, who was focused on Kopitar. Toffoli just had to redirect the puck with the blade of his stick into the open side of the net.
With Kyle Quincey back in the lineup, the Wings’ coaches chose to go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Part of the reason was likely because of the recent play of Alexey Marchenko and Brendan Smith has been so good that it was difficult not to have them in the lineup tonight.
The Wings bounced back in the second half of period, getting goals from Tomas Tatar and Marchenko.
For the second straight night, Tatar scored. His equalizing goal Monday was a tip in front of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Pavel Datsyuk set up the scoring play, skating across the blue line before making a spinning pass to Darren Helm on the opposite point. It was Helm’s shot that Tatar redirected.
Less than three minutes later, Marchenko, who is playing in his 50 career NHL game, finally scored his first goal of the season. Again, Helm and Datsyuk set up the goal.
DETROIT 2, LOS ANGELES 1
SCORING: 1. LAK, Toffoli (Kopitar, Lucic) 2:59; 2. Tatar (Helm, Datsyuk) 15:49; 3. DET, Marchenko (Datsyuk, Helm) 18:16.
PENALTIES: 1. LAK, Kopitar (tripping) 0:29; 2. LAK, Ehrhoff (holding) 9:33; 3. DET, Tatar (tripping) 10:33.
SHOTS: Detroit 10, Los Angeles 12.
The Wings almost seemed compelled to allow the Kings to bring the attack to them in the second period.
Los Angeles came in waves at Howard, out-shooting the Wings, 10-4, in a period that saw the Kings tie the score on a Kopitar power-play goal.
Howard figured in the Kings’ second goal of the night when he was called for tripping Jeff Carter at 16:21. Howard’s penalty was served by Brad Richards.
But just seven seconds later, Kopitar had his 12th goal of the season, and the Kings and Wings were tied at 2-2.
From the top of the left circle, Kopitar rifled a rising shot that Howard likely never saw behind a screen in front of his crease.
For the 12th time this season, the Wings head to the second intermission tied. They have posted a 7-3-1 record when tied after two periods.
DETROIT 2, LOS ANGELES 2
SCORING: 1. LAK, Kopitar PPG (Muzzin, Lucic) 16:28.
PENALTIES: 1. DET, Howard (tripping, severed by Richards) 16:21; 1. DET, Ericsson (hooking) 19:56.
SHOTS: Detroit 4 (14), Los Angeles 10 (22).
With Jonathan Ericsson serving the remaining time on his hooking penalty near the end of the second period, the Kings picked up their second power-play of the night when Detroit-area native Alec Martinez ripped a shot from the right circle that gave the Kings a 3-2 lead at 1:28.
Riley Sheahan attempted to block Martinez’s shot, but may have set more of a screen in front of Howard.
The Wings’ pulled Howard for an extra attacked with 1:26 remaining. But Dwight King out-raced Niklas Kronwall to a loose puck in the neutral zone to score an empty-net goal with 52 seconds left.
Kopitar picked up his third assist on the empty netter. It was his fourth point of the game.
It was just the first time at home this season that the Kings have scored more than one PP goal in a game.
The loss is the Wings’ first of 2016.
Detroit will conclude their six-game road trip later this week when they meet the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena in Glendale on Thursday.
LOS ANGELES 4, DETROIT 2
SCORING: 1. LAK, Martinez PPG (Doughty, Kopitar) 1:28; 2. King (Kopitar, Doughty) 19:07.
SHOTS: Detroit 12 (26), Los Angeles 9 (31).