LOS ANGELES -- Tomas Tatar had an emotional night, Jimmy Howard an encouraging one.
Tatar scored the game-winning goal as the Detroit Red Wings bested the Los Angeles Kings, 3-1, on Saturday night at Staples Center. He played despite just having lost his father, who general manager Ken Holland confirmed to the Free Press passed away in the past couple of days.
Tatar scored his 10th goal of the season with minutes to go in the third period. Tatar kissed his glove and fist-pumped, an emotional display recognizing his loss. His father would have been proud of Tatar's performance all night, as Tatar was the reason the Wings scored their first goal, which came from Riley Sheahan.
Howard was the story of the night for a different reason: He played his best game of the season, coming up huge from start to finish, through one Kings power play after another, finishing with 44 saves.
For a lineup extremely low on regulars, the Wings held their own as the first period got underway. Howard had a very good opening handful of minutes, making a save a minute as the Kings sought to build a quick lead. The Wings didn't have Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson, who was a late scratch.
That left a top line of Henrik Zetterberg with Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader, and a follow-up of Riley Sheahan, freshly up from the minors, with Todd Bertuzzi and Tatar.
The Kings went ahead at 14:10 after a questionable holding the stick call on Joakim Andersson nicked the Wings of two skaters. Anze Kopitar had the puck in the left circle when he found Drew Doughty in a slot for the power play goal.
Tatar created the tying goal when he tore through the Kings' zone, zooming around Robyn Regehr and Mike Richards and putting the puck in the crease, where Sheahan dove for the tap-in. It was a well-earned goal for the Wings, who had closed out the first period with several strong shifts.
Howard continued his good work into the second period as the Kings took charge. He kept it up through a third L.A. power play, denying a shot from the slot and a rebound attempt. Trevor Lewis had a good shot off a rush with Colin Fraser minutes later. Richards had a chance denied as Howard dove for the swipe, with Howard drawing an interference call on Jeff Carter on the same play. The Wings' lack of depth was hardest to miss during their man-advantages, as they barely had enough skilled forward to man a second unit.
Jonathan Quick, Howard's fellow Team USA Olympian, saw little work in the second period, with a Nyquist door-step shot one of the rarities. The Wings closed the period with a fourth power play that yielded a couple of shots, getting them to 18. Howard had 24 saves after 40 minutes.
With the game on the line going into the third period, both sides played cautiously. Dustin Brown tried to angle a shot in from the left side. The Kings for their fourth power play when Bertuzzi got a touch too aggressive shadowing Doughty, leading to a heavier workload for Howard. That stretch seemed to inject renewed energy into the Wings.
Tatar made it 2-1 after Todd Bertuzzi got the puck into L.A.'s zone and dished to Sheahan, who found Tatar, who scored as Bertuzzi drove to the for a screen. Cleary secured with victory a goal with minutes to spare, earning the Wings a second pair of points during this four-game trip, which concludes on Sunday at Anaheim.
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