DETROIT -- The teams were about even but Jimmy Howard was the difference.
He made 34 saves in a spectacular effort and the Detroit Red Wings held off the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall scored for Detroit (11-8-4).
"It was definitely good. It's unfortunate they got one so late in the game but those things happen," Howard said. "As you can see in the standings, it's huge for us every single night to find a way to get two points.''
Paul Stastny scored a goal and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 31 shots for Colorado (8-9-4).
"The difference was really a couple of bounces for them and one hot goalie for them," Giguere said.
Howard shut out the Avalanche until Stastny backhanded in his own rebound from the bottom of the right circle with 1:30 left for his sixth goal of the season.
"We stuck with it until the end," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "Got that late goal to get us back in the game and then we had a couple of chances."
Howard made an outstanding pad save on Gabriel Landeskog's rebound chance from the slot area 50 seconds into the third period and then an even better stop on John Mitchell, who was left alone in front of the net, a little over two minutes into the third. Mitchell had enough time to make a move and take a backhand shot that Howard knocked away with his glove as he dived to his left.
"It was just one of those things," Howard said. "You do it in practice, never give up on pucks in practice and sometimes in games you come up with it.''
Howard then thwarted P.A. Parenteau on a breakaway about 8:30 into the third period.
"I actually gave him the glove," Howard said. "I wanted him to shoot there, try and dictate where he was going to put the puck instead of having him come in and deke because he's a good player.''
Landeskog, the Avalanche captain, gave Howard his due.
"He was incredible tonight. He made some huge saves at key times there," Landeskog said. "In the third period we had two breakaways and he made the stops."
This is the way Detroit coach Mike Babcock saw it: "I didn't think we were as good defensively as we have been. We gave up quality chances down the stretch where we didn't sort things out, they came in home free. He (Howard) made saves on both of them."
Franzen got the first goal of the game seven minutes into the second period. He scored on a breakaway after taking a pass from Damien Brunner by beating Giguere high on the glove side with a snap shot.
"I only have one move (on breakaways) and that's it. That's the only thing I got," Franzen said. "That was a good pass by him. I think there was a D in between and he got it over his stick and I got the breakaway."
It was Franzen's fourth goal of the season and broke his six-game scoring drought.
Kronwall made it 2-0 with 2:28 left in the second period when his slap shot from the point went wide, bounced off the back boards and deflected in off Gigure's leg. It was Kronwall's third goal.
Howard made a point-blank save on Cody McLeod just over five minutes into the second period.
Giguere made a shoulder save on Henrik Zetterberg's backhand shot as Zetterberg cut across the top of the crease off the left wing in the last minute of the first period.
NOTES: Franzen has 12 goals in his last 12 games against the Avalanche. ... Detroit hasn't given up a goal in the first two periods in its last four games. ... Injured Colorado defensemen Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson could return for Wednesday night's game in Chicago. Johnson has missed 10 games with a concussion and Wilson 13 games with an ankle injury. ... Avalanche right winger Milan Hejduk didn't play because of an upper-body injury. ... The Red Wings remained without forwards Valtteri Filppula (shoulder), Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (broken finger) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder). ... Colorado defenseman Matt Hunwick is from the Detroit suburb of Warren and played at the University of Michigan. Avalanche right winger Aaron Palushaj is from the Detroit suburb of Livonia and also played at Michigan.