CHICAGO — When the Detroit Red Wings got off to a slow start, Jimmy Howard kept them in the game. When it went to a shootout, Howard closed the door.
Howard made 32 saves through overtime, and then denied Patrick Sharp on the final play of the tiebreaker, sending Detroit to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
"We were fortunate. We had some guys really dig in for us, including Howie," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "But we've got to be better than we were tonight."
Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist scored in the tiebreaker for Detroit (32-14-10), which won for just the third time in 11 shootouts this season. Tatar also scored in regulation, and Darren Helm had a goal and an assist.
"The shootout is like roulette. You never know," Tatar said. "We don't have a good stat this year but we're glad to beat them. I don't get it either. I'm surprised. With the skill potential we have, it's kind of weird.
"It seems like we can do lots of things on the ice when we play 5-on-5, and all of a sudden shootouts come and we have a tough time to score a goal."
Jonathan Toews put Chicago in front in the first round of the shootout, but Patrick Kane's backhander went off the crossbar, and Sharp was stopped by Howard on the final attempt.
"We'll take a point," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've had some success in the shootouts recently. Tonight, if Kaner's goes in, I would've liked our chances."
Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg scored in regulation for Chicago (35-18-5), and Corey Crawford had 26 saves. The Blackhawks dropped to 2-0-3 on their season-high, eight-game homestand.
The Original Six rivals again played a close game that featured a solid performance by each goalie. They exchanged goals in a 39-second span of the second, and then a 43-second stretch of the third.
"They're a good hockey club," Howard said. "They're extremely good, extremely fast and have a lot of talented players on that team. We knew it was going to take a full 65-minute effort tonight and possibly more."
The Red Wings grabbed the lead for the second time when Helm's persistence in front of the net paid off. Helm's shot from in close was knocked down by Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, but he stayed with the puck and scored his 13th goal as he was falling with 2:06 left in regulation.
With the crowd of 22,112 still buzzing after Helm's play, the Blackhawks quickly tied it again. Versteeg's slap shot from the top of the left circle went off Howard's glove, over Toews and then off Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall's right shoulder and stick for the dramatic goal at 18:37.
"There's a lot of building blocks to build upon here," Versteeg said. "Just keep going forward. There's a lot of games coming up and try to string together a few wins again."
Chicago dominated much of the first period, spending 3 1/2 minutes in the Detroit zone in one stretch. The Red Wings began to play better in the second, but Toews had a prime opportunity for the Blackhawks when he sent a wraparound across the goalmouth, and Saad shot it into the side of the net.
Detroit then used a slick move by Helm to jump in front at 16:10 of the second. Helm sent a no-look backhand pass across the crease to Tatar, who sneaked in behind the defense and poked the puck into the open net for his team-leading 24th goal.
Chicago responded 39 seconds later, with Saad sending a wrist shot past Howard for his 18th of the season. Marian Hossa earned his 26th assist after he barely managed to stay onside before Saad's second goal of the homestand.
NOTES: There was a pregame moment of silence for former defenseman Steve Montador, who died last weekend at the age of 35. ... Detroit scratched D Jakub Kindl and Fs Daniel Cleary and Tomas Jurco. ... Ds David Rundblad and Tim Erixon and F Daniel Carcillo were scratched for Chicago.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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