Goaltender Showdown at Madison Square Garden

Though neither team had scored by the end of the second period Thursday night, the Madison Square Garden matchup never seemed dry. Henrik Lundqvist of New York and Jimmy Howard of Detroit both put up great numbers and showcased some of their best work all season.

Jimmy Howard had a 3.93 GAA and an .864 save percentage in the month of December, posting zero notches in the win column and receiving two regulation losses and one overtime loss in three games. After his numbers continued to increase, Howard found himself on the bench for more than just poor play. The starting goaltender suffered a sprained MCL in mid-December, sidelining him until right before the Winter Classic.

In the month of January, Howard has a 1.91 GAA and a .952 save percentage in five games played where he won two, lost two and gave one up in the shootout in the Winter Classic. With Howard on the up-and-up, the continuing of getting peppered by opponents is not phasing him, but a goal for his team would give him that much more confidence.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Howard, who has made 44 or more saves in three of in his past four games (2-2-0). “It was an entertaining game if you’re a fan of goaltending, that’s for sure. Henrik played real well down at the other end, and I knew I was going to have to match him and outplay him.”

Henrik Lundqvist is referred to by his teammates as ‘the king.’ The 31-year old from Sweden was blocking everything that Henrik Zetterberg and his fellow Swedish countrymen had to offer him. Six Red Wings in the 2014 Sochi Olympic games, representing Team Sweden, will join Lundqvist. The Rangers’ netminder has a 16-17-3 record with a .914 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average on the season.

“You don’t get a reaction (from the crowd), so you know it’s behind you somewhere. So you don’t want to make too big of a move,” Lundqvist said. “It was right there. It’s nice to get some puck luck after a few tough bounces. We worked so hard. They had a few chances, but overall we played so well. It was a good goalie game, I guess.”

The Red Wings had more than just a few chances against Lundqvist. They had 38 shots against and zero attempts went in past the Ranger netminder.

“I knew (Howard) was going to play real well and not give up a lot of goals. I just tried to go in with the approach that maybe one or two goals, that’s going to be it tonight,” Lundqvist said. “We played so well as a team on both ends. We created a lot of chances, but Jimmy played really well.”

Howard faced 48 shots on net and allowed one goal, recording a .979 save percentage on the evening.

“I thought our guys worked hard, and we had outstanding goaltending from Howard, which was really positive. They got outstanding goaltending from Lundqvist,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Even 6-on-5, I thought we made a really good play and got it behind him but didn’t score. You don’t get a lot of moral victories in the NHL. For me, the evaluation process for our team is how hard we play and how organized we are. I was pleased with that.”

The Red Wings played with a strong presence and made smart plays with Brendan Smith, Tomas Jurco and Daniel Cleary.

Injuries are still a massive issue within the locker room. Nine regular players remain sidelined, including Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson. For the team’s upcoming game against the Kings, they hope to have some of these players back in the lineup.

For the second time this month, the Detroit Red Wings will square off against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at 7 p.m. EST at the Joe Louis Arena.

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Information from the Detroit Red Wings was used in this report.

For more information on the Detroit Red Wings and NHL hockey from analysts and journalists at Michigan State University – tune into Octopi Hockeytown podcasts and embrace the Spartan debate at www.impact89fm.org/sports

Austin Goodman is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Scoring Summary:

1st Period:

No goals recorded.

2nd Period:

No goals recorded.

3rd Period:

14:02 – NYR – M. Zuccarello (Wrist) D. Brassard, B. Pouliot

Three Stars:

First: Henrik Lundqvist

(38SA, 0GA, 1.0SV%, 31-31EV, 5-5PP, 1-1SH)

Second: Mats Zuccarello

(1G, +1, 1 shot, 16:22 TOI)

Third: Jimmy Howard

(48SA, 1GA, .979SV%, 42-43EV, 4-4PP, 1-1SH)