Edmonton, Alberta — The Red Wings needed some miracles to snare a desperately needed win from the Oilers last night, 3-2, in overtime.
They got them, in fistfuls from Jimmy Howard, who was simply spectacular time and time again.
Then, trailing 2-0 for two periods, they eventually tied the game in the third when the former Tigers pitcher Dan Petry's son Jeff fired the puck in his own net during a Wings' power play. Petry was attempting to clear it behind the net and around the boards when he inadvertantly put it right inside the goal post.
The play quite literally unfolded as if a gift from above.
It was the second road power-play goal of the season for the Red Wings, and it tied the game after all hope had seemed lost
The Red Wings looked like a team with a massive identity crisis for two periods.
Howard had somehow held them in. Petry delivered them from a cruel fate.
When Pavel Datsyuk, with enormous speed got by young Petry at 3:39 of overtime and skated alone, Oilers' goalie Devan Dubnyk stood no chance, and one of the more improbable Wings' victories in recent memories gave them two points in the standings when their playoff hopes seemed significantly strained.
The Wings were 0-2-1 in the previous three and one could not be blamed for thinking that their season was at a precipice after two miserable periods.
"Where are we?" coach Mike Babcock asked after the game, referring to the Wings play in the first two periods.
"We're not getting any time in the offensive zone. We're not physical. We're not competitive on the puck. We weren't good enough."
But they had Howard.
He was spectacular early and often, and the game left him dehydrated and behind closed curtains in the dressing room after the game, two days after recovering quickly from a bug.
The wonders he produced began with a big save in the opening several seconds as Edmonton took the opening faceoff and descended upon him.
In the third minute Howard's quick poke check stopped the Oilers' Taylor Hall, who seemed the fastest man on ice all night, on a two-on-none break.
It was just one of the Red Wings' breakdowns that Howard repaired.
Howard stopped Ales Hemsky twice, bang-bang, while splayed on his back, Hasek-style, frantically covering as much of the crease as he could and flailing arms and legs in absolute desperation.
After handing a game to the Flames two nights ago with a series of uncharacteristic giveaways, the Wings had vowed a good game.
For two periods, they produced an unmitigated disaster except for a goalie who was not only their best player, but who at times was figuratively their only player.
"You know, it's interesting," Babcock said. "The other night in Calgary I thought we were really good and then we turned the puck over, and tonight we were no good and then got playing in the third period."
It was like two different games, with the Oilers playing one of their best of the season for two periods, and the Red Wings firing the first 10 of 11 shots of the third and simply taking over by sheer force of will.
Afterwards, the Wings had trouble explaining it.
"I thought the first two periods tonight were awful, to say the least," said Niklas Kronwall, after the game. "A step behind, just watching.
"It wasn't good enough, and we found a way to get back in the game," he said. "Our forwards did a great job, getting some great cycles going."
The Wings and their coach were asked, as teams often are when the lift themselves from abject failure to win, if something was said, by a coach or players, to ignite the comeback.
"Well, I think no one was really happy with the way things were going," Kronwall said. "So, I don't think a lot needed to be said, really."
After the Oilers got goals from Hall and Sam Gagner, Wings forward Valtteri Filppula scored for a second consecutive game on a sparkling backhander at 4:27 of the third. .
Filppula's speed flummoxed both the Oilers and the Flames this week after he returned from a shoulder injury. He said the layoff finally healed the knee he hurt in Europe during the lockout.
Petry scored, in effect for the Wings, at 14:07, and the goal was credited to Kronwall, who last touched the puck for Detroit.
And then it was Datsyuk in overtime.
A Datsyukian Deke, to borrow the Ken Daniels' expression, was all that stood between he, the Oilers blue line and a win. And Datsuyk performed.
When he put it by Dubnyk, you could see the elation in his face and his rascally laughter.
"Of course, we (did) not play great in the last few games," Datsyuk said. "We (did) not score, and (it) puts more pressure on us."
All was resolved as if by some mysterious guiding presence. From awful, with a goalie battling alone, to brilliance in 63 minutes and 39 seconds.
The process put the Red Wings in fifth place in the Western Conference, one point down from third and two points above ninth, miraculously.