For a while it looked like only the Finnish rookie goaltenders could hold up to the pressures of the NHL playoffs. But then Detroit’s first-year netminder Jimmy Howard went out and made saves like this one against Phoenix in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series last night:

The mask-less save proved that Howard possesses exceptional concentration, and his 29 saves on that many shots in a 3-0 win that evened the series at two games apiece proved that the temperature of his blood might match the coldness of that of Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Nashville’s Pekke Rinne. Howard needed to bounce back after a shaky couple games that had some questioning whether he was the right man to help Detroit defend its conference title. Now there’ll be no doubting Howard, at least for another couple days until Friday’s Game 5.

Howard’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible without the Red Wings’ star in front of him joining him in the spotlight, as Henrik Zetterberg scored twice and Pavel Datsyuk once. However, when the night was winding down, the Joe Louis Arena faithful let Howard know which star shone brightest with a “Jim-my, Jim-my” chant.

Last night wasn’t lacking for fantastic Finnish performances, as Rinne outdueled countryman Antti Niemi again in a 4-1 Predators win that put that club up, 2-1, in its series. In a playoffs that have featured shaky performances by Martin Brodeur, Roberto Lu0ngo and Jose Theodore, and the Canadiens enter tonight’s game with Washington with question marks surrounding potential starter Carey Price, Howard struck a blow for North American netminders.

Elsewhere last night, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh grabbed 3-1 leads in their respective series. If those two teams win, the Bruins will be guaranteed to meet the Penguins in the next round, unless Montreal makes a major comeback and knocks off Washington.