Howard won a goaltending duel with Montreal's Carey Price by making half of his 36 saves in the third period as the Wings held off the Canadiens 4-2 on Friday night.
Second-period goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall gave the Wings a 3-1 lead after two periods. But the third period was a different story -- the Canadiens outshot Detroit 19-3, got within one goal when Benoit Pouliot blasted a slap shot past Howard at 7:43 and spent the rest of the period pressing for the equalizer.
"I thought we were pretty good for two periods and they were better for the third period," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
The Canadiens didn't get even thanks to Howard, whose best stop was a spectacular glove save while flat on his back on P.K. Subban's shot off a rebound with 2:39 left.
"It was just fluttering. He's a good goaltender. If he saw it, he was going to stop it," Subban said. "If I would have gotten more wood on it, maybe he wouldn't have seen it and it might've went in. But I was only able to chip it with one hand."
Patrick Eaves hit the empty net to give the Wings some breathing room.
The win was Howard's 16th, one less than Price, who leads NHL goalies with 17.
"It's a pride thing. It doesn't matter who is at the other end, I don't want to lose. I want to play my best," Howard said. "I don't think it has anything to do if it's the (Columbus Blue Jackets') Steve Mason or Carey Price. I pride myself being the best every single day."
"We had some good opportunities and didn't capitalize on them," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said.
The rare visit from the Canadiens brought a large contingent of Montreal fans who traded "Go Habs go!" chants with the home crowd's chants of "Go Wings go!"
"There was a lot of electricity in the building," Lidstrom said. "It felt just like a playoff game."
Added Howard: "The atmosphere was great. The one thing that really fired me up was hearing the Habs fans chanting Carey Price's name in our building. I thought that was a little much and it definitely fired me up."
Kronwall put the Wings ahead at 3:48 of the second period by beating Price from the slot for his sixth goal. Danny Cleary sent a pass to Kronwall while Cleary was on his knees in the right circle.
Datsyuk's 10th goal gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead at 15:31. He took a pass from Jonathan Ericsson, who came out of the penalty box seconds earlier, in the neutral zone, cut in from the right side and beat Price with a backhander high on the short side.
Lidstrom tied it at 1 with 1.2 seconds left in the first period on a 5-on-3 power play, poking in a pass from Tomas Holmstrom after Josh Georges' turnover in the left corner. In all, the Canadiens gave Detroit four power plays in the opening period and six for the game, while earning just one.
"We got ourselves into penalty trouble. When you take that many penalties, you don't have a chance to get into the game and you don't have a chance to get into the flow," Montreal captain Brian Gionta said. "It was a big game and it was a big test for us and we needed to stay out of the box. When we played 5-on-5, I thought we controlled the play."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report