DETROIT — It wasn’t the ideal scenario but the Red Wings will gladly take it.
The Wings salvaged a much-needed point Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild in a 4-3 overtime loss at Joe Louis Arena.
The win coupled with Toronto’s loss to New Jersey meant that the Wings have tied Toronto with 80 points.
But the Wings jumped ahead of the Maple Leafs to seventh in the Eastern Conference because they have one more regulation/overtime win. The Wings have also played in 71 games, two fewer than the Leafs.
"It’s huge. It really is huge," said Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, who had 21 saves. "I know everyone’s probably disappointed that we didn’t get the win here tonight but that point’s huge. It moves us up here with Toronto and we just gotta keep pushing forward."
The disappointment comes from the fact that the Wings had a 2-0 lead after the first period.
But the score really didn’t reflect the way the two teams were playing.
The Wild carried most of the play the whole game and it was Gustav Nyquist and Howard who gave the Wings that lead.
Nyquist scored his team-leading 22nd and 23rd goals of the season in the first period. Nyquist has 18 goals since Jan. 20 and seven in his last five games.
"I’ve been playing with great players so I’ve (been) getting a lot of opportunities out there to shoot the puck in good areas and getting great passes," Nyquist said. "So that’s the reason behind it and obviously I’m getting good deflections, too. I’ve had some good bounces for some goals, so that’s fun to see."
Howard stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first, a couple of the spectacular variety.
When the Wild were on the power play, Matt Moulson appeared to have an open net on the left side but Howard slid over quickly to make the save.
"I feel good," Howard said. "I think it’s no secret that the more I play, the better I feel out there. I enjoy being out there and competing so just continue to keep battling for the guys and making saves.
"We’re a young team so there’s gonna be mistakes made out there. I gotta find a way to stop the puck for the guys."
Howard has definitely elevated his game of late, which has led to the Wings getting seven of eight points in the last four games.
The Wild scored three unanswered goals, including two 1:45 apart in the third period to take a 3-2 lead.
But Tomas Tatar tied the game at 11:43 of the third.
The overtime goal was a deflection from Moulson that Howard could not stop.
"I would’ve liked to see a box out on the tip guy who scored a goal at the end, we didn’t get that done," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "But all in all, I guess the way I look at it we had a great week here, we get a day of rest (Monday), get ourselves energized and get to Columbus and then play like we can."
The Wings seemed to be sluggish, mustering a season-low 16 shots.
"Well statistically. I didn’t think anybody was great," Babcock said. "We turned the puck over, we didn’t skate, but that’s all part of it. That’s all part of finding a way to battle and compete and get points when you don’t have your A-game and I thought our guys did a real good job of that. We just ground away and played a lot of defense (Sunday)."
The Wings get a much-needed day off Monday after back-to-back games and six games in 10 days.
They travel to Columbus Tuesday for a critical game. The Blue Jackets are just two points behind them and have more regulation or overtime wins than the Wings do (31 to 28).
The New York Islanders shut out the Blue Jackets Sunday, 2-0.
"It’s going to be hard game," Tatar said. "It’s always hard to play against Columbus. Big team, hard to play in that building. But we’re in a good way. I’m glad we’re taking the points when we can. It’s in our hands. There’s lots of games ahead of us and we know what we have to win to be in for sure. So lots of games we have to focus and play good to be in the playoffs."