Detroit — The Los Angeles Kings outplayed the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
But, the Wings had Jimmy Howard, and some timely “finish” on scoring plays, and they beat Los Angeles, 3-1.
Howard stopped 42 of 43 shots and played 53:22 of shutout hockey before Anze Kopitar got one by him, when the Kings descended on his crease in the third period.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said, “Jimmy was our best player tonight. I didn’t think we played good enough tonight. I thought they outplayed us. I thought Jimmy was the difference in the game, ultimately.
“We were able to score, which was nice. In L.A. I thought we outplayed them and we lost (4-2, Oct. 10), and I thought they outplayed us tonight and lost.
“Sometimes, you have to find ways to win games if you’re not at your best, if you want to be able to do anything. Nobody’s at their best, every night.”
The Red Wings are 13-6-2 since Oct. 28, when they were 1-7-2.
“Well, it wasn’t our best, but we found a way to get two points,” Howard said, crediting the goal scorers Dennis Cholowski, Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin with fine offensive plays. For me, it’s all about getting wins. That’s what this league is all about.”
For all the fine work and credited by his coach and teammates for winning the game, Howard said he did not feel as busy as the 43 shots on goal and 81 attempts by the Kings suggested.
“No, it didn’t feel like it, to be honest with you,” the 34-year-old netminder said. “It didn’t feel like working that hard to face that many shots. I think we did a good job tonight of making them be one and done.”
Howard improved to 10-6-4.
The Kings played their grinding game, frequently possessing the puck, and the Red Wings hoped to play fast enough to skate freely and score some goals.
After the Wings built a 5-1 lead in shots on goal towards the middle of the first period, the Kings outshot them 42-16 the rest of the way.
Cholowski opened the scoring, joining the rush and beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with a sharp, top-shelf wrist shot in the first period.
Nielsen remained hot, doubling the Wings lead in the second from point-blank range in front of Quick.
Later, Larkin scored an unassisted goal, after intercepting a pass in the Kings zone on brilliant forecheck.
With the Kings opening up an advantage in shots on goal and territorial play through the opening minutes of the second period, the Red Wings suddenly turned the tables.
Thomas Vanek took the puck on the left wing in the Kings zone and feathered a cross-ice pass to Andreas Athanasiou, who quickly shoved the puck to Nielsen.
Standing about eight feet from Jonathan Quick in the Kings net, Nielsen let a quick shot go that easily beat the goalie, for a 2-0 lead.
It was Nielsen’s fifth goal of the season at 6:06.
He has five goals in his past six games, after a slow start.
A dozen minutes of playing time later, Larkin had the puck at the left half-boards and pulled up just inside the Kings blue line. Surveying the ice, he fed the puck diagonally into the opposite corner.
The Kings controlled it and tried to make a quick pass to jumpstart the transition.
But, Larkin anticipated it.
He said he had seen similar plays from the great Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, before.
“Yeah, the puck was there,” Larkin said. “I think I’ve seen Doughty slide like that a couple times. So, I was probably figuring he would do that. So, I saw it unfold right in front of me. It was a pretty lucky play.”
Moving quickly from the sideboards, he intercepted Doughty’s pass and turned, in full flight towards the net, where he made easy work of Quick at 18:08.
It was Larkin’s seventh point (twp goals, five assists) in three games.
The Wings finished the second period ahead 3-0, despite being outshot to that point 24-17.
Howard played well in the second, stopping the Kings twice at point-blank range.
And, the Kings had 44 attempts to the Wings 31, through two.
In the first period, the Wings got off to a good start, pushing the play, possessing the puck in the Kings zone and generating a 5-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Cholowski joined the rush on the left with with Christoffer Ehn, who got the puck from Jacob de la Rose.
Ehn fed Cholowski perfectly, and the young defenseman skated in alone on Quick and roofed the puck over the veteran goalie's right shoulder for this fifth goal.
Cholowski demonstrated fine judgment, joining the rush. He also showed terrific hands, putting the shot precisely where it needed to go, at 6:32.
“First of all it was a great play by (Trevor Daley) in the D-zone,” the 20-year-old defenseman said. “He had two guys on him and he reversed the puck and was able to move it to the middle. And, then, we were able to get a 3-on-2. I was able to move up the wing, and got the puck, hoped it went in and thankfully it did.”
His top shelf wrist-shot beat Quick before the veteran goalie had much of a chance to move.
The Kings made the best of much of the rest of the period.
The shots were 10-8 in favor of Los Angeles, and the Kings had 20 attempts to the Wings' 11, after a brisk, effective start of the period.
Justin Abdelkader played in his 650th game and Gustav Nyquist in his 450th.
At 13:22 of the third period, on their 36th shot on goal, Kopitar finally opened the scoring for the Kings, picking up a free puck in the crease after the Wings allowed Los Angeles to descend on Howard.