With the Detroit Red Wings sending the struggling Chris Osgood home for a ten-day recuperation period, Jimmy Howard was called up to take his place, giving the team and the fans a chance to see his progression since his last start on Feb. 23, 2008.
Unfortunately, it did not go as planned, as Howard struggled early and was left with no support as the game went along. Owen Nolan started it off for the Minnesota Wild, snapping a weak shot between the legs of Howard just two minutes into the game.
He followed that up with a back-handed power play goal just six minutes later.
The Wings responded with a rare goal from the fourth line, as Tomas Kopecky scored just his third goal of the season and his first in 22 games, on a centering pass from rookie Ville Leino.
Detroit showed some jump in their step in the second period, but the Wild put the game out of reach with two late goals.
A positive for the Wings is that they received both goals from the usually crappy fourth line.
Draper was scratched in favour of Leino, and that is what made the big difference. The Wings top-ranked power play efficiency finished 0-for-3 against the top-ranked penalty kill.
This was only Detroit's second loss in February.
After the game, Howard was sent back down to Grand Rapids, and the media was informed that Osgood will start the game after the San Jose game.
Andrew Brunette ended his iron-man streak of 509 games by missing this game. It was the longest active streak in the NHL, but his knee was bothering him too much.
Adam's thoughts and rants
While Howard did struggle in his return to the NHL, the top-line players all had bad games and it played a big part in the loss.
Pavel Datsyuk looked flat and Henrik Zetterberg didn't do too much playing alongside him. Marian Hossa also looked below average, while Nicklas Lidstrom seemed to be fatigued.
The fourth line, meanwhile, looked better than it had all season. With Leino in for Kris Draper (who was a healthy scratch), the fourth line was involved in both goals, with Leino getting two points. Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson also played really well, despite some missed opportunities.
Although Howard didn't look too good on the first two goals, he managed to settle down and play alright. He cannot be sent down to the AHL next year without being put on waivers, so now is the time for him to prove to Detroit that he can be an NHL-caliber goalie.
If he proves that he can handle the NHL, the team could offer him the backup spot.