The Blue Jackets had a five-game winning streak snapped. A win against the Red Wings would have allowed Columbus to equal the franchise record for consecutive victories.
Detroit has defeated the Blue Jackets in 12 of their last 16 meetings.
Johan Franzen opened the scoring 7:04 into the second period with his 10th of the season and Valtteri Filppula came through on the power play to give Detroit a 2-0 lead 8:06 into the third.
Antoine Vermette scored for the Blue Jackets just 59 seconds after Filppula's goal, but Howard shut the door after that.
Steve Mason made 30 saves in taking the loss.