Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) clears the puck in front of St. Louis Blues center David Backes (42) as Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (5), of Sweden, defends in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
DETROIT - Jimmy Howard did his best work early and his teammates took over later.
He stopped 31 shots for his ninth career shutout and the Detroit Red Wings beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Saturday night.
"Howie (Howard) made a huge save in the first period, actually two of them, allows you to get going," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Obviously our team played pretty well in the second, took the game over."
One of the saves Babcock referred to came against Matt D'Agostini with 7:44 left in the opening period and the game still scoreless. Howard denied Matt D'Agostini from in front and to Howard's left with a glove save right on the goal line just inside the post.
"I just thought I had him," D'Agostini said. "That I was just going to slide it in. But he came across."
Howard, who has four shutouts this season, also made a blocker save on a deflection by Jason Arnott with a little under nine minutes left.
Johan Franzen, Justin Abdelkader, Jiri Hudler all scored in the second period for Detroit, which won its 12th consecutive home game, two short of the team record. It was the Red Wings' second win over the Blues at Joe Louis Arena in five days.
"We're keeping it simple, not trying to overdo it at home," Howard said. "We were able to open it up there a little bit in the second period and it generated some opportunities."
Brian Elliott made 28 saves for St. Louis, which came closest to scoring when Carlo Colaiacovo hit the post on a shot from the point during a power play early in the third period. The Blues are winless in three games (0-2-1) for the first time this season and Elliott has lost back-to-back games for the first time in 2011-12.
"We've got to learn how to battle back," Scott Nichol said. "You're going to be behind a goal or two."
Franzen opened the scoring 7:28 into the second period when he cut in from the left wing, skated across the slot and beat Elliott from just below the right circle. It was Franzen's 15th goal. He had gone eight games without a goal
Abdelkader made it 2-0 with his fourth goal, and second in two nights, just 1:17 later when he scored from the slot after a turnover by St. Louis defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Abdelkader had returned to the game at the beginning of the period after taking a shoulder to the face from St. Louis defenceman Ian Cole 9:11 into the game. Cole received a minor penalty for contact to the head.
"It's good to comeback from a hit like that. I felt good right off the bat in the first period. It was good to come back and help the team out," Abdelkader said. "I didn't see the hit, but I definitely got hit in the head. At least it felt that way. I haven't seen a replay yet."
Cole said he tried not to hit Abdelkader in the head.
"He tried to come back and avoid and he put his head right into my shoulder," he said.
"I don't like the hit, the hit should be a suspension, for sure," he said.
Hudler put in his own rebound with 53 seconds left in the middle period. It was Hudler's ninth goal.
NOTES: Detroit centre Darren Helm missed his second game with a groin strain. . St. Louis left wing Alexander Steen missed his second game because of concussion-like symptoms. ...Red Wings adviser to hockey operations Chris Chelios was honoured before the game for his recent induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. There was a video tribute on the scoreboard and Chelios dropped the puck for a ceremonial opening faceoff. .