By Steve Keating
DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit rookie netminder Jimmy Howard earned his first post-season shutout as the Red Wings put their Stanley Cup hopes back on track with a 3-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.
Howard, who surrendered four goals in each of Detroit's last two games, turned in an air-tight performance with 29 saves to send Detroit back to Phoenix on Friday with the best-of-seven Western Conference series tied 2-2.
Henrik Zetterberg scored twice for the Red Wings to push his playoff total to five in four games, while Pavel Datsyuk got the other Detroit goal.
"It's important they find their way themselves, the good players have all got to survive at this time of year," Detroit coach Mike Babcock told reporters. "I said to the guys before the game, 'we need to win tonight'.
"This is why you're in sports, for games like this. You have to bring it when it counts. That's what sport is all about.
"That's what Howie has to do if he's going to be top flight goaltender in the National Hockey League.
"We've seen lots of guys do it well in the regular season and not deliver at playoff time and I'm real comfortable he'll be able to."
Despite two shaky outings, Babcock stuck with Howard instead of going to veteran backup Chris Osgood and was rewarded with a gritty effort from his 26-year-old rookie.
A LITTLE ADVERSITY
Among Howard's highlights was one save that knocked off his mask followed immediately by a pad save on the rebound.
"A little adversity has never hurt anybody and that's what I told myself yesterday," said Howard.
"I can't get too high just because I got the shutout tonight, it could be a whole different game on Friday so I have to enjoy this but just like I did Sunday I have to forget about it."
Detroit dominated the opening period, outshooting the Coyotes 17-9, but could not put a puck past Ilya Bryzgalov, who earlier this week was named a Vezina finalist as the NHL's top netminder.
The Red Wings finally broke the deadlock with just over four minutes to play in the second on a controversial power-play goal from Zetterberg that at first appeared to come off a high stick.
The contest remained a goaltending duel until late in the third period when Datsyuk and Zetterberg scored 25 seconds apart to seal the win.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ian Ransom)