This is why it’s so hard to win an NHL game, 1-0.
The Red Wings held the Montreal Canadiens at bay for 59:31 but still needed to go into overtime.
The 1-0 lead the Red Wings held since 14 minutes into the first period vanished during one of those scrums that occur when a desperate team has its goalie pulled and is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the net.
But the Red Wings, who marshaled the Canadiens’ forwards all evening, washed away whatever bitterness they had when Brian Gionta tied the game with 29 seconds left, and stabbed the Habs with :28 left in OT to grab two huge points, 2-1.
Gustav Nyquist, cruising in from the left wing, banged home a rebound of a Danny DeKeyser shot at 4:32 of OT, and while a win over Montreal without the Canadiens getting any points would have been sweet, it was two points just the same.
Detroit (27-20-12) firmed its hold, though ever so slightly, on the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings are 7-3-2 in their past 12 games.
All night, the Red Wings got in the Canadiens’ way. It was like the Habs were trying to play regular billiards on a bumper pool table.
But alas, Gionta pounced on a loose puck to the left of Jimmy Howard at 19:31 of the third period and flipped a neat backhand into the upper left corner of the net to temporarily nullify all of Detroit’s fine checking.
Todd Bertuzzi, playing his first game after eight straight healthy scratches, scored Detroit’s first goal on the power play. Stationed at the right side of the crease, Bert took a nifty pass from Johan Franzen from behind the net and buried a short shot past Montreal goalie Peter Budaj.
Then, for the next 45:31, the Red Wings frustrated the Canadiens and annoyed the Bell Centre crowd, until Gionta’s goal briefly made everything loud and fun again.
BOTTOM LINE: This was one of the best games the Red Wings played all season from a checking standpoint.
THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: It would have been brutal to have lost this game in extras, as the Red Wings outplayed Montreal for most of the night. Nyquist, who seems to have a knack for scoring big goals, provided poetic justice.