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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.”
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
Zetterberg had missed two games with a back injury.
Michal Neuvirth stopped 42 shots to match a career high. One of his first was perhaps his best, flashing his glove to snag Nyquist’s shot off a rebound just in front of the net midway through the first period. He also gave Washington a shot to win in the shootout, stopping the first six shots he faced.
“Very frustrating being so close to a win, but at least we got one point,” he said.
Jason Chimera put the Capitals ahead 1-0 at the 15:24 mark of the first period on a power play and teammate Casey Wellman tied it at 2-all midway through the third, scoring on his third straight shot in a 2-second sequence.
“Took a couple of whacks at it and it went in,” Wellman said.
“He made huge saves on the penalty kill late,” Babcock said. “They had good chances and he made great saves.”
The lead didn’t last much longer because Ovechkin made it 3-all late in regulation.
“People don’t realize how hard that shot is,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “The ice is terrible at that time, the pass comes a long way. Just to get good wood on that puck is very difficult. He seems to shine at that moment.”
Drew Miller tied the game early in the second and Danny DeKeyser gave the Red Wings their first lead late in the period.
“All in all, the guys worked really hard and we scored a goal late,” Oates said. “I think the guys gotta feel pretty good about that. Yeah, you want to win it, but I think they feel pretty good.”
Howard helped, too, and will be on the U.S. team at the Winter Olympics in two weeks if he can stay healthy.
The captain of Russia’s team has vowed he will be healthy enough to go for gold in his home country, but he declined to talk to a reporter following a postgame chat with Ovechkin, an Olympic teammate, that lasted about 10 minutes. Datsyuk often picked up, bent and extended his left leg as he talked with Ovechkin.
“We just talked about his injury,” Ovechkin said. “I hope he’s going to be OK.”
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