But that was the last time he let a puck get past him in a successful return to the ice.
Howard made 26 saves after missing four games with an injured left knee.
“I felt surprisingly good,” he said. “I didn’t have any issues at all with the knee, which I think is a great sign because I came back last time and still felt it every once in a while.”
Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist scored a tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, but the Red Wings couldn’t prevent the NHL’s goal-scoring leader from sending the game to overtime.
The Capitals pulled their goaltender late in regulation and the move paid off.
Ovechkin has 39 goals this season, his highest total since scoring 50 times during the 2009-10 season
The banged-up Red Wings welcomed back two key players: Howard and Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg had missed two games with a back injury.
“I think Zetterberg on the bench really helped,” Babcock said. “I don’t care who you are, when a lot of your best players aren’t there, you’re wondering where the next goal’s coming from.”