Howard stopped 11 shots in the second period as the Wild sought to erase a 2-0 deficit and improved to 36-15-5 on the season for the Red Wings, who won the Central for the ninth time in 10 years.
Brad Staubitz notched a second-period marker and Carson McMillan got a goal in his first NHL game for Minnesota.
Jose Theodore made 30 saves in the Wild's loss.
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