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Howard sparks Wings' win in return

Goalie made 26 saves and stopped all seven shots face in the shootout win vs. Caps

Friday, 01.31.2014 / 11:33 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Howard sparks Wings\' win in return
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made this stop on Alex Ovechkin in the shootout Friday night. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – As far as Jimmy Howard is concerned, he passed his physical test Friday night.

The Red Wings’ goalie returned to the lineup for the first time since a reoccurring sprain left MCL forced him to miss the past five games.

But in a game that the Wings desperately needed points to stay in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, Howard was spectacular against the lethal-shooting Washington Capitals.

Howard made 26 saves and stopped all seven Capitals’ shots in the shootout to lift the Red Wings to a 4-3 victory at Joe Louis Arena.

“I thought I played pretty good,” said Howard, who sat out eight games in December after he originally suffered the knee injury. “I’ve got to look at the video and see how the third one went in because everyone in the building knows where the puck wants to go there and where he wants to shoot it but I’m not 100 percent (sure) and where it went in on me.”

The third goal was the game-tying goal by Joel Ward with seven seconds left in the third period. The play was set up by the league’s leading scorer, Alex Ovechkin.

But Howard came up big in overtime, making two saves, and in the shootout, against a Capitals’ squad that has won eight shootouts this season.

“We needed the win,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We found a way to win, which is great. I would have liked to get the two points in regulation so they got none. We just missed a lane there at the end and Ovechkin's a dangerous guy, as you know. We had some real good opportunities that we didn't bury, so we gotta focus on that in practice and finish on our opportunities. But I thought we played a good game.”

The Capitals’ first three shooters in the skills competition can give most goalies nightmares, but Howard didn’t flinch, stopping Eric Fehr, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in order.

“I made a conscious effort to takeaway his shot,” Howard said of Ovechkin’s backhand shot to the stick side. “His shot is extremely lethal and just the way he shoots the puck, the way he cups it at times on his stick makes it hard where it’s coming off. I just tried to come out and cut his angle off.”

Equally as dangerous is Backstrom, who tried to lift a backhand shot over Howard’s glove but missed when the puck clanked off the right post.

“I think it’s an exciting time facing them in the shootout,” Howard said. “The last time Ovi went to his forehand and so did Backstrom so maybe they were trying to show something different. I was trying to takeaway the blocker side on Backstrom because that’s where he beat me last time in went in.”

Howard also denied Casey Wellman, Troy Brouwer, Martin Erat and Jay Beagle.

On the other side of the rink, Patrick Eaves scored the Wings’ only shootout goal in the seventh round, which proved to be the winner.

The Red Wings and Capitals will meet for the final time this season when the Eastern Conference rivals play at Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
5 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 52 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 53 9 27 3 36
T. Tatar 52 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 53 14 15 -2 29
P. Datsyuk 38 8 20 12 28
J. Abdelkader 53 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 39 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 49 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 20 10 4 .933 1.97
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89