Dallas — If Jimmy Howard has righted his ship, the Red Wings might be on to something.
Howard played splendidly, turning aside 44 of 45 shots as the Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars 5-1 Saturday night, despite being outplayed and outshot for considerable stretches of the game.
It was a large victory for the Red Wings, who played without injured Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser, Johan Franzen and Steven Weiss in the opener of a critical, five-game road trip.
"Real good for us, obviously. We've been waiting for Jimmy to be Jimmy all year long, and tonight he was back to what we expect," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
"I thought he had a real bounce-back game after the Nashville game, at the Winter Classic. Here, tonight, he was big and square and soft, all the things he always has been here. And he's got to feel real good about himself, because it obviously hasn't gone as smooth for him as he would have liked."
Howard sparkled, especially in the first period when he stopped all 20 shots he faced.
At one point the shots were 14-1 Stars, but the Red Wings led 1-0 on Henrik Zetterberg's first goal of the game.
By the end of the first the Red Wings led 3-1 despite being outshot, 20-13.
They were then outshot in the second period, 15-5, before evening up play a bit when they were outshot, 10-9, in the third.
Howard kept the Red Wings in the game until their offense got going.
"Just trying to build on everything, to be honest with you," Howard said, when asked if he has worked on anything specific during an up-and-down season, which has been disrupted by hand and knee injuries.
"I'm trying to get back into that groove, you know, that groove that I've been in for the first three out of four seasons and I'm trying to find that happy medium out there, and the only way I know to do that is to just continue to keep working."
Asked if the heavy workload early in the game helped him, Howard said he’s just taking things as they come.
"Some nights you can be in there and you feel real good and you get 12 shots like that in the first 10 minutes, and the next thing you know you're sitting over there on the bench with the guys,” he said. "Each game's different and tonight (as a team) we were able to find away. We did a good job of battling back, and I'm real proud of the guys in here tonight."
Zetterberg (13th, 14th), Joakim Andersson (seventh), Drew Miller (fifth) and Tomas Tatar (eighth) scored for the Red Wings.
The game featured an statistical oddity: Just four assists were awarded on the six goals — two unassisted and four with one assist.
It was a big win to open a bi-coastal, five-game trip to Texas, California and New York, as the Red Wings continue to weather a blizzard of injuries.
The Wings don’t play at home until January 18.
"It was a big team effort," Miller said. "We needed a game like this. There've been a lot of close games that we lost, just not finding the way to get things done.
"Tonight we just kept going and kept going, played 60 minutes and got contributions from a lot of different guys. So it was a big win for us."
Babcock said it was an important win, not only coming at the start of a trip, but with four days off before they play next, in California. The Wings plan to spend time in Arizona before completing their trip west.
"We've had so many injuries," Babcock said. "Honestly, I've said it already, I'm tired of guys being out and being on the table when I walk in there. We need guys to be freshened up and ready to play and we need a big push out of our group.
"We've got four games together on the road and we need to have a good trip."