DETROIT – Although they’ll be teammates at the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month, there wasn’t much love between Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick Saturday night in Detroit’s 3-2 shootout victory over Los Angeles.
Midway through the second period, Kings forward Kyle Clifford slammed into Howard, igniting a scuffle that attracted everyone’s attention.
“Clifford slipped there, evidently, and slid into him and he didn’t like it,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought there should have been a call there and there wasn’t.”
Kings center Mike Richards took offense to the goaltender’s rough treatment of his teammate and shared a few words before shoving Howard, which inspired Wings rookie Luke Glendening to come to the defense of his netminder.
“I was actually exhausted after and was happy that it was TV timeout that I could get a chance to breathe,” Howard said of the altercation. “But you know we did a great job, probably not the smartest time for me to do that in a 1-1 hockey game but it actually might have helped me focus in even more.”
The skirmish ended with off-setting roughing penalties to Howard and Richards, but didn’t end there.
As both teams skated toward their benches during the TV timeout, Quick and Howard bumped into each other near center ice and exchanged words all the way to their water bottles that, according to Howard, was just a simple conversation about their upcoming travel plans.
“We were just discussing what we were going to do over in Sochi together, who we were going to bring,” Howard said with a smile. “I told him I was bringing my parents and my sister and I asked him who he was bringing so it was a good discussion.”
Defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was within earshot of the chat, wasn’t so quick to agree.
“Jimmy started it and Quickie came in and answered him and just said you know, ‘If you’re going to push our guys, I’m going to push your guys’,” Quincey said.
To say that Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty enjoyed watching Quick stand up for his teammates would be an understatement.
"That was awesome,” Doughty said. “I love that about Quickie. He's going to stand up for his teammates no matter what the circumstances are. He's going to take the blame for any goal. He's always there for us. For him to do that, I thought it was pretty cool. I loved it, actually."
The exchange between the two goaltenders could make their reunion in Sochi interesting when they suit up for Team USA in three weeks. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller is expected to start in goal for the U.S., which would leave Quick and Howard to compete for the No. 2 role.
The competition between the two Saturday night only increased as the game went on, and after 60 minutes of regulation and a scoreless overtime period, it was only fitting that the game would be decided by a shootout featuring the two Olympic goalies.
While Howard stopped shots from Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Richards in the skills competition, Tomas Tatar netted his second game-winning goal against the Kings in seven days, giving the Red Wings their first shootout victory at The Joe this season.
"I'm so happy we won and won in a shootout and a home game,” Tatar said. “Obviously I was happy I scored and made up for the Winter Classic attempt. I think fans deserve it, the team deserve it. We just played really well, I think."
The victory gave Detroit a much-needed win at home and a crucial two points to kick off a five-game homestand. It also ended the team’s scoreless streak at 152 minutes and 21 seconds, dating back to Daniel Cleary’s goal in the third period of last Saturday’s 3-1 win in Los Angeles.
“Huge win for us,” Babcock said. “Our goaltender played real well, we competed real hard. We’ve been competing hard and playing with good structure for a long time and haven’t been rewarded for it. Tonight, we got a good break and were rewarded for it.”
Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall scored Detroit’s two goals in regulation. Kronwall’s controversial goal that deflected off of the net, onto Quick’s back and into the goal with 26.1 seconds left in the game gave the Red Wings a break that was long overdue, helping the club improve to 7-10-7 at home.
“I think we were due for a break,” Quincey said with a smile. “It was a good break for sure.”