New York — Jimmy Howard played great on Sunday, but it wasn’t good enough.
New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein scored on a 2-on-1 rush at 1:59 on overtime to give the Rangers a 1-0 victory.
Moments before, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made a big save on Gustav Nyquist, leading to the Rangers rush. It was one of Lundqvist's 22 saves in the game.
Howard was sensational, making 29 saves, but saw his winless streak reach 10 games. He hasn’t won since December 3.
“It’s not satisfying because we didn’t get the win,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter, you still want to get the two points. But it was a fun game to be part of.”
Howard played arguably his best game of the season — and in the estimation of defenseman Kyle Quincey, since longer ago than that.
“I told him throughout the 11 years on and off (they’ve been teammates), that may have been the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” Quincey said. “We’re happy that he had such a great game and hopefully he can keep going. If he does that, we’re in great shape.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said, “Jimmy was great. Jimmy certainly deserved the win. He made some especially big saves, and had some big moments.”
Howard came on in relief Thursday after starter Petr Mrazek was pulled in Pittsburgh and stopped all six shots in mop-up duty.
“Jimmy was great but that goes back … He was really good when he went in against Pittsburgh and really good against the (New York) Islanders (Feb. 15),” Blashill said. “He’s had three good outings in a row and hopefully he can continue to build on that.”
Howard got into the game early as the Rangers pressed but couldn’t get a puck past him.
“We knew they’d come out hard early and just throw pucks from everywhere,” Howard said. “I just wanted to get my body in front of it. It didn’t really matter how I got it done, I just wanted to get the job done for the boys.”
In the midst of a two-month struggle, Howard felt there might be a bright spot in this game.
“Maybe this is a step in the right direction, figuring out what my role here is,” Howard said. “It’s been tough to figure out but maybe I’m getting it.”
But the Red Wings saw their woes continue, as they’ve lost four straight overall and six straight on the road.
They earned two points with regulation ties in Ottawa and New York, but they need to begin to stretch some victories together.
“It’s not secret it’s tight,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “It should be tight this time of year. These two games were a step forward as a team, so if we keep doing this, we’ll be fine.”
Howard kept the game scoreless with some brilliant work in the third period.
He made a penalty-shot save on Rangers forward Victor Fast at 14:35 after Fast was taken down by defenseman Mike Green.
Showing emotion, Howard pumped his fist and looked in the direction of the Red Wings bench after making the stick save on Fast.
Howard stopped Fast again on a 2-on-0 attempt right in front of Howard with just under four minutes left, sprawling to keep the game scoreless with a right pad save.
Howard and the Red Wings got a break early in the third period on an apparent Rangers goal by Kevin Hayes from a sharp angle at 5:54.
But Howard was kicked in the head by a falling Oscar Lindberg while Howard in the crease, although it appeared Lindberg was tripped by Howard, forcing the contact.
The replay ruling was that Howard was interefered with by Lindberg before the puck crossed the goal line.
“It was a great challenge,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, if you get kicked in the face it’s going to take a second to figure out where the puck is again.”
Blashill said before Sunday’s game it was important that both goalies play well heading down the stretch.
Mrazek has yet to play over 50 games at the professional level and is at 41 with 22 games left in the regular season.
“Petr Mrazek hasn’t played in 50-plus games since junior,” Blashill said, “and the schedule is such that you need two (goalies) and you have to have the other guy be able to step in and win games.
“When called upon Jimmy has played to a level that is capable of winning. We have to make sure we have to give him a good effort in front of him, especially defensively.”