LOS ANGELES -- Tomas Tatar pointed up to the rafters, as if to thank someone watching from above.
Tatar's father, Jan, died this week of a liver ailment, so the moment was packed with emotion when he scored the game-winning goal in the third period Saturday to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
Tatar, a 23-year-old native of Slovakia in his first full NHL season, also picked up a hard-earned assist on Riley Sheahan's first NHL goal and goalie Jimmy Howard was superb with 44 saves to best Jonathan Quick in a matchup between two of the three goalies for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"That game and that goal was for him, and I felt he was with us [throughout the] whole game. Right now it's really hard to talk about," Tatar said. "It's a big loss for me obviously.
"I just wanted to work as hard as I could for my dad, and this game was for him. I'm really happy we won this game. At the same time, it was Riley's first goal, right? I was really happy I could help him. It's kind of funny before the game, I told him he'll get one today, and he didn't believe."
The win was dinged by another Red Wings injury; Howard hurt his hip and will miss at least the game Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks, coach Mike Babcock said.
"Hurt his hip flexor," Babcock said. "He's out."
The Red Wings lost yet another forward before the game when Daniel Alfredsson was scratched with back spasms, according to the team. Detroit was already missing key forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Darren Helm.
Howard spoke to reporters before Babcock revealed the injury. Asked during a television if Howard is out for a while, Babcock said, "I don't know. You know how it is here."
Babcock was otherwise pleased with a win against a tough L.A. team and felt for Tatar.
"The way you honor your father or your mother and the past is by continuing to do what you should do, and playing hard and doing things well," Babcock said. "He's going to have a different relationship with his dad now. I lost my mom early too. I pray [for] my mom every night during the national anthem and I never ever want to let her down. He can do it the same way. His dad's here with him."
Daniel Cleary scored with 2:34 remaining to seal the victory. Detroit has a chance to win consecutive games in regulation Sunday for the first time in 18 games.
L.A. appeared to get caught in a line change during a Red Wings rush, and Quick kicked out Sheahan's shot to Tatar, who was free to flick it in the net at 12:06 of the third. Tatar has goals in three straight games.
Los Angeles played well in a 5-2 win against the Boston Bruins on Thursday that came after a 1-5-1 slump, but the Kings' offensive woes resumed against Howard, who held his ground during a third-period power play and shut out L.A. over the final two periods.
Howard was pulled from a 4-1 road loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and wanted to come back strong.
"There's a lot of pride," Howard said. "We all have a lot of pride out there and when something like that happens, you've just got to continue to go out there and prove yourself have that determination that you belong out there."
Sheahan, who was recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Friday, helped Detroit come out of the first period with a 1-1 tie.
Tatar did the heavy lifting; he held off Robyn Regehr and Mike Richards on his way to the net, but Sheahan crashed the crease and was able to lean forward and backhanded Tatar's rebound into the net at 17:11.
"We just got on the wrong side of the scoreboard tonight on a couple of plays," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We were there tonight. I thought we had multiple chances to score on second chances on rush opportunities, and it didn't happen."
The Kings' lone goal came on a 5-on-3 power play after Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey was called for tripping Richards and center Joakim Andersson was whistled for holding Drew Doughty's stick in the neutral zone.
It was Doughty's first goal since Dec.11 and the first by a Kings defenseman other than Alec Martinez since that Doughty goal. But that was it for Los Angeles, which had 21 missed shots and 17 blocked.
"I think at the start of the second period we had several opportunities where we didn't shoot the puck," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Those are really 1-1 games. If you're just leaving it until the third, there's a chance you're not going to get rewarded for a great effort. We had several opportunities to bear down, but we didn't get a shot."
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