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DETROIT — A hold on a playoff berth might seem delicate, at best. Unstable, at worst. But with six games left in the regular season and less than eight minutes left in a critical late-season game, Gustav Nyquist provided the Detroit Red Wings with necessary help.
The right wing’s goal with 7:12 left in regulation lifted the Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins and helped Detroit tighten its grip on a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Nyquist picked up a turnover at the top of Boston’s zone and cruised through the neutral zone before scooting behind towering Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara to beat goalie Tuukka Rask for Detroit’s first lead of the game.
“I caught a player flat-footed so I just tried to used my speed,” said Nyquist, who scored his 28th goal. “I came in with pretty good speed so I just tried to skate around him wide and I was in alone there and tried to get a quick shot off, underneath [Rask’s] glove.”
Nyquist’s goal made up for the fact that the Red Wings were outshot 35-20 and didn’t generate much in the way of offense until midway through the third, when Tomas Jurco picked up Tomas Tatar’s rebound and shot into Rask’s pads at close range.
Two minutes later, Jurco tied the game at 2-2, and after that, Nyquist’s goal gave the Red Wings their first lead of the game with 7:12 left - and helped his team gain valuable points in its push for a playoff berth.
“Some guys are putting pressure on us,” Tatar said of the push for the playoffs. “We know exactly how many games we have to win to be there and we want to battle, being in this playoff push right now. We’re really glad that we’re picking up the points so far, and we’re in a good way.”
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The Red Wings entered Wednesday’s game holding the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference; Detroit has 86 points, three points ahead of Columbus, four ahead of Toronto and five ahead of Washington. All three teams were idle Wednesday.
The playoffs begin April 16 and the NHL will utilize a new format for playoff pairings this season, which will feature two wildcard berths. The top two teams of the remaining ten teams in the Eastern Conference will get the wildcard berths. The top division winner based on points plays against the lower-ranked wild-card team, while the second division winner faces the higher-ranked wild-card team. The second-place team faces the third-place team in each of the four divisions.
Officials waved off Torey Krug’s goal with 4:19 left in the first, ruling that Chara was in the crease. A minute later, Johnny Boychuk’s shot from the point gave Bruins a 1-0 lead with 3:10 left in the first.
Boston outshot Detroit 25-11 through the first two periods but Tomas Tatar tied the game at 1-1 4:45 into the second; his shot from the right circle beat Rask (17 saves) as a hooking penalty to Patrice Bergeron expired.
“Jimmy was excellent,” Nyquist said of Howard (33 saves). “He’s been excellent for us for a while now. They were going to come at us at times, and we just had to stay with it and keep calm, and we needed Howard to be great. And he was tonight.”
Carl Soderberg’s power-play goal gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead 70 seconds into the third but the Red Wings capitalized on their second bonafide scoring chance of the third, when Tatar kicked the puck across the crease to Jurco at 11:06 of the third to tie the game at 2-2. Less than two minutes later, Nyquist gave Detroit its first lead of the night.