Montreal — For the Red Wings to reach the playoffs, and overcome the loss of Henrik Zetterberg, they will need to play this way.
Gustav Nyquist scored with 27.3 seconds left in overtime Wednesday, giving the Red Wings a valuable second point in a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in their first game since the Olympic break.
Nyquist put back a rebound past goalie Peter Budaj, driving to the net, for his 15th goal.
“We control out fate here,” Nyquist said of this post-Olympic schedule. “We wanted to start up on a good note after the Olympic break. It was nice to get that win.”
The game wasn’t particularly pretty in terms of offense, but it was beauty of a defensive effort. The prime scoring opportunities goalie Jimmy Howard had to face were few and far between.
Very similar to how the Red Wings played last season down the stretch to secure a playoff spot.
“For sure, that’s what we talked about, about what we did last year to get into the playoffs,” Nyquist said. “We wanted to work on our defense. It hasn’t been good enough this year.
“It’s what we’ve talked about and it was nice to see it happen.”
One shot Howard didn’t get was Montreal’s Brian Gionta scoring with 28.6 seconds left in regulation, during a scramble in front of Howard after the Canadiens had pulled Budaj.
But the Red Wings were able to overcome it in overtime.
“We played good, even in the final minute — that’s all part of it,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It was a tight game. I wish we would have shot the puck more. Other than that, it was two teams checking real hard and there wasn’t a lot of room.”
The other Red Wings goal was scored by Todd Bertuzzi, on the power play, at 14:01 of the first period.
Yes, there was a Todd Bertuzzi sighting.
It was Bertuzzi’s first goal in 18 games, and first appearance after being a healthy scratch the last eight games.
“You have to be ready and prepared and professional and when you’re called upon; you go out there and try to do something,” Bertuzzi said. “The two points were huge for us. Montreal is ahead of us, so they are important points.”
With the victory the Red Wings (27-20-12, 66 points) increased to their lead to three points for the final wild-card spot — while inching to within only five points of fourth-place Montreal (32-21-7, 71 points) and four of Toronto (70) in the division race.
On Bertuzzi’s goal Johan Franzen, who also reappeared in the lineup after not playing since Jan. 26 because of a concussion, set up Bertuzzi in front.
Franzen carried the puck behind the net, and found Bertuzzi alone just outside the post. Bertuzzi one-timed a shot past Budaj.
The Red Wings were on the power play, thanks to an iffy roughing penalty on Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban against Darren Helm.
Subban’s penalty negated a Montreal power play after Niklas Kronwall was called for holding at 11:14.
Whatever pressure Montreal mounted actually occurred in the first period.
Howard stopped Gionta on a good scoring opportunity in the slot early in the first period.
But from there, it was mostly a suffocating Red Wings defensive effort, reminiscent of the way they played toward the end of last season to secure a playoff position.
“This is what we are,” Babcock said. “If you’re looking for us to score a touchdown every game, you’re looking for a different team. We’re not going to outscore a lot of teams with the group we have. We’re aware of that.”