Howard, Nielsen lift Red Wings over Rangers 3-2
Jimmy Howard grew up in Syracuse, New York, cheering on big Rangers’ victories. He’s since learned to take a little pleasure in their losses, too.
Howard made 37 saves, including a penalty-shot stop on Brady Skjei in overtime, and foiled all three Rangers in the shootout as the Detroit Red Wings beat New York 3-2 on Friday night.
“Being my childhood team, I always enjoy going out and playing against them,” said Howard, who is 6-3-3 lifetime against the Rangers with a 1.72 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.
Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout to lift the Wings to the victory. Nielsen beat Henrik Lundqvist through the pads for his 47th career shootout goal and 21st winner, both NHL records.
“He’s got so many moves in the shootout that you never know what he’s going to do,” Lundqvist said.
Both the Wings and Howard ended three-game skids.
“Howie was big in the shootout, the whole game,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He always plays good against Lundqvist.”
Lundqvist has also enjoyed his share of success against the Wings. He’s 7-1-2 in his last 10 decisions versus Detroit dating back to March 21, 2012, and his goals-against average (1.89) and save percentage (.937) against the Wings are his best against any opponent.
“It’s always fun, it’s always a great battle,” Howard said of facing Lundqvist. “He’s one of the best in the league and he has been for a while.”
Zetterberg and Andreas Athanasiou scored for the Wings, and David Desharnais and Vinni Lettieri scored for New York.
Zetterberg stuffed his own rebound behind Lundqvist at 7:05 of the third period to tie it at 2. It was his second goal in 30 games.
“It’s nice to win, it’s nice to get two points,” Zetterberg said. “But we’ve got to do it again and again and again.”
The Wings have fallen 11 points behind the Boston Bruins for the third Atlantic Division playoff position and are nine points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.
Lettieri, making his NHL debut, drove a cross-ice feed from Boo Nieves for his first goal 3:25 into the third.
“The skill level here is incredible for every player, and you really have to stay focused,” Lettieri said. “I was nervous on my first couple shifts, but I settled down after that.”
The Rangers, who didn’t get their first shot on goal until 6:31 into the first, opened the scoring with 2:25 remaining in the period. Left unattended at the edge of the crease, Desharnais easily shoveled Jimmy Vesey’s feed to end an 11-game scoring drought.
The Wings tied it 7:46 into the second. Athanasiou used a burst of speed to get by defenseman Nick Holden and whipped a quick shot over Lundqvist’s left pad. It was Athanasiou’s first goal in 16 games.
NOTES: RW Anthony Mantha, who leads the Red Wings with 13 goals, was scratched due to an undisclosed injury. … C Luke Glendening (hand) and D/RW Luke Witkowski were Detroit’s other scratches. … Lettieri’s father, Tino Lettieri, was a professional soccer goalkeeper who played for Canada at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. His grandfather is former NHLer and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame enshrinee Lou Nanne. … C Chris Kreider (blood clot in right arm), RW Jesper Fast (quad strain) and D Steven Kampfer were scratched by the Rangers.
Rangers: Play Buffalo on Monday in the Winter Classic at Citi Field.
Red Wings: Host two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh on Sunday.