Howard bails out sloppy Red Wings in win over Rangers

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

New York — Jimmy Howard always has enjoyed playing the New York Rangers — and at Madison Square Garden.

And back in that building Wednesday for his first start this season Howard was sensational, the primary reason the Red Wings swiped a 2-1 victory over the Rangers.

Howard stopped 32 shots, many of them spectacularly, and helped the Red Wings to a victory they probably didn’t deserve.

“Jimmy stole the game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Honestly, that’s one of the better performances I’ve seen from a goalie, really at any level.

“He was excellent. We have to be much better than that to have long-term success.”

BOX SCORE: Red Wings 2, Rangers 1

Drew Miller broke a 1-1 tie just 59 seconds into the third period, while Thomas Vanek tied it with a power-play goal (his third goal) in the second period.

“The big story, though, was Howie,” Miller said. “He played awesome. He kept us in it, had big saves, and he was the difference-maker.”

Howard was the main reason the Red Wings were tied after two periods, frustrating the Rangers several times. Howard was outstanding while getting little support in front of him, stopping two breakways on one Red Wings power play at one point.

“We found a way to get two points but that’s definitely not the way we wanted to start through two periods,” Howard said. “We turned pucks over, but we found a way to win on the road and that counts for something.

“I wanted to go out there today and enjoy myself and give the guys a chance to win.”

That, Howard certainly did.

“Without him, we don’t win this one,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We can’t play like this if we want to win. We’re happy we got the two points but we have a lot of work to do.

“We found a way to win but we won’t do that every night if we play like this.”

The Red Wings, for the third time in four games, gave up too many quality scoring chances. Howard erased the mistakes this time, but the Red Wings can’t expect to win games playing this sloppily.

“For me, it was simply winning battles and turnovers,” Blashill said. “We have to be better in those areas.”

On the Miller goal, Luke Glendening stole the puck from Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist behind the net and centered it to Miller cruising through the slot.

Lundqvist couldn’t get back into position quick enough to stop Miller, who shot into an open net.

“Glennie won the battle behind the net and put it out front,” Miller said. “I got the puck on net and it went in. Big goal for us.”

Said Lundqvist: “It’s a game we should put away before we hit 40 minutes with the amount of chances we had, but it came down to that play where for the most part when I do that play I find our defense on the backside. It happens. It’s tough to accept because we played really well. We had enough chances to be up probably four goals, but we were not.”

The Red Wings couldn’t capitalize on a 1:23 two-man power play midway in the third period, then saw an apparent tying Rangers goal called off with 3:40 left when Jesper Fast’s stick was deemed high on a deflected goal.

The Red Wings got back into the game when Vanek tied it at 6:15 of the second period, redirecting a pass from Frans Nielsen.

Vanek has been a revelation in the opening week of the season, but on this night, it was all about Howard.

“We hit a hot goaltender,” said Alain Vigneault, Rangers coach. “We had five or six breakaways that we were unable to finish. Give him credit, he played a real solid game.”