DETROIT (AP) – Jimmy Howard certainly isn’t playing like a backup goalie.
Howard stopped 36 shots and the Detroit Red Wings beat the skidding Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Thursday night.
“Howard saves us again. Goaltending,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “I thought we had a good start, got the goal early but then we started to play a little too cute, let them back in the game. A little bit too stubborn with turnovers again. You can’t do that against this team.”
After opening the season as the No. 2 man in net behind Petr Mrazek, Howard made his third consecutive start. He improved his goals-against average to 1.22 and his save percentage to .961.
Howard is 4-2-0 in seven games, six starts.
“When I get in there, I just want to give the team a chance to win,” he said.
Dylan Larkin, Brendan Smith and Steve Ott scored for Detroit. Zetterberg, matched against Canucks captain and fellow Swede Henrik Sedin most of the game, had two assists.
“We came out good. I thought through large stretches of the game we weren’t good enough,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think we’re going to have to be better. Now with that said, they do a good job.”
Daniel Sedin scored for Vancouver, which is 1-9-1 in its last 11 games. Ryan Miller made 24 saves.
Miller made a spectacular stop after he began to leave the crease for an extra attacker. Zetterberg got a hold of the puck in the neutral zone and lobbed a shot at the almost-empty net, but Miller made a glove save while diving to his right.
“We played pretty well tonight, but it is the same story again,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. “We’re getting good chances and nothing is going in.”
Daniel Sedin cut it to 2-1 at 3:14 of the third period. He finished off a pretty back-and-forth passing play with twin brother Henrik by beating Howard with a shot from the bottom of the left circle. It was Daniel Sedin’s fifth goal.
The Sedins were not matched against Zetterberg’s line for the goal.
“We’re playing our system and we’re creating chances. We just can’t get anything to go in,” Daniel Sedin said. “We have to figure this out, because we can’t keep saying this every night. We’re playing well enough to win games, but we need to put the puck in the net.”
Ott’s first goal with the Red Wings restored Detroit’s two-goal lead with 4:46 left. He tipped in defenseman Jonathan Ericsson’s shot from the left point.
Detroit led 2-0 after the first.
Larkin opened the scoring 32 seconds into the game when he put in the rebound of Zetterberg’s shot. It was Larkin’s team-leading fifth goal.
Smith made it 2-0 with 1:47 left in the opening period. His slap shot from the point in the middle of the ice trickled through Miller for his second goal.
NOTES: Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou left after the first period with a lower-body injury. Athanasiou took a hit from Canucks defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. Blashill did not have an update after the game. … Vancouver sent forward Jake Virtanen to its American Hockey League affiliate, the Utica Comets, on Wednesday. Virtanen has one assist in 10 games. … Detroit’s healthy scratches were D Xavier Ouellet, D Ryan Sproul and LW Drew Miller, the brother of Vancouver G Ryan Miller. … Canucks scratches were D Alex Biega and D Philip Larsen.
Canucks: Host the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
Red Wings: At the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
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