Howard shrugged off a penalty-shot goal by Joe Corvo and stopped 22 shots in his NHL debut, including a breakaway by Eric Belanger, to lead the Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
"The first five minutes I was nervous," said Howard, a second-round draft pick in 2003 who spent the previous two seasons at the University of Maine. "I was definitely jumpy out there and my legs just didn't feel right, but then I seemed to settle down and just tried to play my game. The first shot came, it was a deflection and I got it with my pad. From there on I felt really good out there.
"The guys helped me out a lot. They came back hard, broke up odd-man rushes and they cleared a lot of rebounds. They definitely made me look good. I'm 21 years old and playing my first game in the National Hockey League. It's something I'll never forget."
Howard was promoted from Grand Rapids of the AHL after former Kings goalie Manny Legace sprained his left knee in Friday's 3-1 loss at Anaheim and was placed on injured reserve. His backup was 12-year veteran Chris Osgood, who surrendered six goals in two of his last three starts.
"Jimmy has all the athletic ability and the form that allows him to be pretty good," coach Mike Babcock said. "Is he mentally tough enough to do it in this league on a regular basis? I don't know, but we'll find out here. We'll give him a chance and see how long he can ride it."
Defenseman Chris Chelios ended a 57-game goal drought and Mathieu Schneider got the go-ahead goal during a power play in the second period. Steve Yzerman also scored with the man advantage and Henrik Zetterberg added a third-period goal, helping extend Detroit's winning streak against Los Angeles to nine games.
Nicklas Lidstrom scored into an empty net with 1:43 left to make it 5-1.
"They simply outworked us and were more physical than us," Kings coach Andy Murray said. "Their veteran players were very good tonight, and ours weren't."
The Red Wings did not allow a power-play goal for the first time in 14 games, as Los Angeles went 0-for-7 with the man advantage. The Kings are 0-for-21 over their last three games, after scoring six power-play goals in their previous three contests.
"It's just nice to kind of stop the bleeding in that area and finally put a zero up there," Kirk Maltby said. "They didn't get a lot of second and third chances. We had a chance to clear the puck out from in front of the net, and Jimmy made some nice saves. Hopefully, we can play a little better on the penalty kill, because specialty teams now are huge in the success of teams."
Schneider put Detroit ahead to stay at 9:37 of the second period, beating Jason LaBarbara with a screened slap shot from the right point for a 2-1 lead with nine seconds left on Tim Gleason's delay-of-game penalty.
Michael Cammalleri was off for interference when Yzerman made it 3-1 with his third goal of the season and 40th of his career against the Kings. The Red Wings' 40-year-old captain sat out Saturday's 7-6 win at San Jose to get some much-needed rest after a grueling schedule of games, practices and travel.
"I felt a lot better tonight than I did in Anaheim," Yzerman said. "We've been in Canada, back home for a few and then on the West Coast, and we just haven't had a break. So I just had nothing left to go play in San Jose. I'll just keep playing it by ear and see how I feel."
The Red Wings opened the scoring at 4:03 of the second period while the teams were skating 4-on-4. Chelios knocked down Gleason's attempted clearing pass with his glove just inside the blue line, then stickhandled toward the slot and beat LaBarbara to the glove side with a 40-foor slap shot for his first goal since Jan. 16, 2004.
Chelios was using Maltby's stick after testing it out in the morning skate, where he broke four planes of glass.
"I think he was just kind of frustrated with his stick and he tried mine," Maltby said. "It was a similar curve from what he used to use, so he was happy with it and it worked for him tonight. I told him there's lots of goals left in that stick."
The Kings tied it at 7:39 of the period on Corvo's fifth goal. He was awarded his penalty shot when Maltby -- on his knees after getting turned around in the Detroit zone -- threw his stick in an attempt to knock the puck off Corvo's stick. Corvo made the most of his freebie, faking to his right and slipping the puck between Howard's leg and the right post.
|Jimmy Howard turns back 22 shots as the Red Wings defeat the Kings a ninth consecutive time. (AP)|
|Detroit (18-6-2) «||0||3||2||5|
|Los Angeles (16-8-1)||0||1||1||2|
Save Pct.: .917
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|04:03||Chris Chelios, Slap Shot - Unassisted.|
|07:39||Joe Corvo (5), Penalty Shot - Unassisted.|
|09:37||Power Play - Mathieu Schneider (8), Slap Shot - Assists: Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman|
|13:43||Power Play - Steve Yzerman (3), Tip-In - Assists: Jason Williams and Tomas Holmstrom|
|15:19||Henrik Zetterberg (10), Wrist Shot - Assists: Mikael Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk|
|18:17||Nicklas Lidstrom (2), Slap Shot - Unassisted.|
|18:59||Sean Avery (6), Tip-In - Assists: Nathan Dempsey and Mattias Norstrom|
|11:21||Schneider: Hooking - 2 min.|
|13:10||Dempsey: Hooking - 2 min.|
|17:10||Williams: Delaying Game - 2 min.|
|01:01||Conroy: Boarding - 2 min.|
|01:08||Zetterberg: Tripping - 2 min.|
|05:37||Lang: Hooking - 2 min.|
|07:46||Gleason: Delaying Game - 2 min.|
|11:16||Shanahan: Roughing - 2 min.|
|11:16||Shanahan: Fighting - 5 min.|
|11:16||Gleason: Fighting - 5 min.|
|12:31||Cammalleri: Interference - 2 min.|
|13:43||Norstrom: Boarding - 2 min.|
|19:12||Robitaille: High sticking - 2 min.|
|02:30||Shanahan: Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 2 min.|
|02:30||Gleason: Unsportsmanlike Conduct - 2 min.|
|06:48||Samuelsson: Hooking - 2 min.|
|13:06||Zetterberg: Holding - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|
|Attendance - 0|
|Game Time - 60:00|
|Referees - Marc Joannette, Wes McCauley|
|Line Judges - Jean Morin, Vaughan Rody|