LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Detroit Red Wings snapped a five-game, road-losing streak behind strong goaltending by Jimmy Howard and offence from players who had been struggling to score.
Pavel Datsyuk ended a 12-game drought with a pair of goals, Justin Abdelkader scored for the first time in 15 games, and Niklas Kronwall netted the go-ahead score during a power play in the second period, leading the Red Wings to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
“It was very important, especially after the way we started the last couple of games,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We weren’t happy with the way we were playing, but today we stuck to our game plan for 60 minutes. We wanted to hang onto the puck, especially in their zone, try to grind their D and get some shots with traffic in front of their goalie.”
Howard gave up four goals on 21 shots Thursday at San Jose and was pulled after two periods in a 5-2 loss. He got back in goal Saturday and made 23 saves, including one on a penalty shot by Anze Kopitar at 11:06 of the second period with Detroit leading 2-1.
“He played just tremendous for us, and it was great to see him rebound from the last game,” Lidstrom said. “We played real solid defensively, tried to clear the rebounds and be there for Jimmy in front of the net. I thought we did a much better job in front of him, and he made some big saves.”
Howard, who had a career-high 51 saves against the Kings on Jan. 7, 2010, was at his best after Kopitar was hit from behind by former Kings defenceman Brad Stuart.
The Kings’ leading scorer was awarded his first NHL penalty shot, but Howard stood his ground and gloved Kopitar’s backhander while doing the splits.
“He’s a talented player and I figured he was going to make a move, so I just went out and followed him back, stayed patient and was able to make the glove save,” Howard said. “You get the tendencies of guys just by watching them on TV, and you file them back in your memory so that when you see them in those situations, you pluck it when you need it.”
Tomas Holmstrom had two assists for the Red Wings, who haven’t lost six straight road games since December 1987. Detroit, which had the NHL’s second-best road record last season at 26-11-4, posted its first win away from home since an overtime victory at Minnesota on Oct. 15.
Mike Richards scored his sixth goal in six games for the Kings, who were coming off a sweep of a home-and-home set with Anaheim. Jonathan Quick made 33 saves.
“We turned the puck over in the neutral zone and we paid for our mistakes,” Kings defenceman Matt Greene said. “They capitalized on turnovers and we didn’t. We turned pucks over and played right into their game.”
The Kings, who won three of four against Detroit last season, took a 1-0 lead 6:37 in with their third short-handed goal in two games—eight seconds after Justin Williams tripped Datsyuk.
Henrik Zetterberg won a clean faceoff from Jarret Stoll deep in the Los Angeles end, but the puck slid out of the zone. Richards outraced Jiri Hudler to the puck in the Detroit zone before slipping a short backhander between Howard’s pads for his eighth goal.
“Richards is real good short-handed, and we all know that, so you’ve got to be aware of it,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Jiri’s got to get in front of that guy and cut him off, although he got the head-start. But I thought it was a huge when we responded on the same power play after they scored.”
The Kings’ lead lasted 37 seconds as Datsyuk converted a rebound of Lidstrom’s shot from the left point. It was Datsyuk’s first goal since his winner on Oct. 21 against Columbus. He added an unassisted goal at 15:06 of the third period.
“I thought he played real solid for us at both ends of the ice,” Lidstrom said. “He’s a hard worker and he backchecks real hard, but when he has the puck he can make plays and make things happen. It was great to see him get rewarded like that.”
The Red Wings took a 2-1 lead at 7:08 of the second period when Holmstrom carried the puck from behind the net and fed Kronwall in front while Rob Scuderi was off for slashing Zetterberg.
Brendan Smith, playing in his second NHL game following his promotion from Grand Rapids of the AHL, recorded his first point with an assist on Abdelkader’s goal at 15:38 of the second as the Red Wings made it 3-1. It came seven seconds after Smith finished serving a hooking penalty.
Smith was suspended for the final three pre-season games and five regular-season games because of a hit to the head of Chicago’s Ben Smith on Sept. 28.
NOTES: Richards is the first player to score short-handed goals in back-to-back games for the Kings since Ziggy Palffy, on March 29-30, 2001. He has 25 in his career. … Detroit RW Todd Bertuzzi returned after missing six games because of a sinus infection that left him dizzy and light-headed. … Kings LW Ethan Moreau, who signed a one-year, free agent contract in August, hasn’t scored a goal in his first 20 games. It’s the 16-year veteran’s longest drought from the start of a season, surpassing his first 15 games in 2000-01 with Edmonton. … Detroit is the only visiting NHL team to win at Los Angeles in each of the last nine seasons. San Jose can match the Red Wings this season.