So far, so good.
"I think everybody in this dressing room believes I can do it," Howard said. "I just have to keep doing it consistently."
Howard won on consecutive nights in the NHL for the first time since Detroit drafted the goalie from Ogdensburg, N.Y., in the second round of the 2003 draft.
"He really battled and made big plays," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "That's a real good sign for us."
Howard played in a 9-1 win Tuesday night at Columbus to give Chris Osgood a break, then was back on the ice the next night because Osgood was feeling ill.
"In a tight game, you got to come up with the big saves at the right moment and he did," Detroit defenseman Nicklas said. "In the third period, he made some key saves."
Roberto Luongo did not blame himself for not stopping the shot that put Detroit ahead for good.
Zetterberg took a long pass from Brad Stuart, slipped past the defense and lifted a backhander over Luongo's left shoulder for his team-leading 17th point.
"Tried to follow it," Luongo said. "He went from forehand to backhand and then put in right under the crossbar. Not a lot of guys can do that, only a few around the league."
Luongo made 26 saves in his first start since facing Detroit on Oct. 27 when he aggravated a broken rib.
"I felt like my timing was good and I was able to read the play," he said.
Niklas Kronwall scored an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Detroit won its third consecutive home game and is 5-1 after a slow start to pull within a point of the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
"We aren't winning games in the same fashion that we used to, that's pretty obvious," Babcock said. "But we are finding ways to grind games out and that's what we have to do."
The Red Wings lost players in the summer who combined to score 88 goals last season, including Mikael Samuelsson, who signed with the Canucks.
"They played like last year and the year before that," Samuelsson said. "I don't really see a difference."
The Canucks have lost three in row and close a five-game road trip Saturday at Colorado.
Vancouver outplayed the Red Wings for much of the game, but left Joe Louis Arena without a point.
"We played a good road game," Luongo said. "Unfortunately, we don't have much to show for it."
The Canucks outshot Detroit 15-5 in the first period and after an evenly played second period, it controlled the action in the third until Zetterberg scored at the eight-minute mark.
"We had a lot of chances, just couldn't bury them," Henrik Sedin said. "[Howard] made some big saves."
|Captain Nicklas Lidstrom is the first to congratulate backup Jimmy Howard for his 31-save effort. (AP)|
|Detroit (9-5-3) «||1||0||2||3|
Save Pct.: .969
Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks 2009 Winter Classic Mega Shop Now!
|17:31||Power Play - Tomas Holmstrom (9), Tip-In. Assist: Zetterberg, Datsyuk|
|06:38||Power Play - Mason Raymond (8), Tip-In. Assist: Bieksa, Kesler|
|08:00||Henrik Zetterberg (5), Backhand Shot. Assist: Stuart, Kronwall|
|19:04||Niklas Kronwall (5), Empty Net. Assist: Howard, Stuart|
|02:24||Rypien, 5 min, Fighting|
|02:24||May, 5 min, Fighting|
|10:53||Lebda, 2 min, Holding|
|15:50||Burrows, 2 min, Goaltender Interference|
|06:28||Abdelkader, 2 min, High-Sticking|
|08:18||Stuart, 2 min, High-Sticking|
|09:59||Kronwall, 2 min, Hooking|
|18:37||Eaves, 2 min, Roughing|
|18:37||Ehrhoff, 2 min, Roughing|
|19:26||Cleary, 2 min, High-Sticking|
|10:45||Ehrhoff, 2 min, Hooking|
|Shots On Goal|
|Attendance - 20066|
|Referees - Gord Dwyer, Dave Jackson|
|Linesmen - David Brisebois, Scott Driscoll|