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Dramatic comeback punctuates Detroit playoff berth

NHL.com @NHL

The Detroit Red Wings clinched their 20th consecutive playoff berth the hard way.

The Wings rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force overtime, and Danny Cleary tipped in Brian Rafalski's shot 2:58 into OT to give Detroit a 4-3 victory against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

Justin Abdelkader scored twice, Jakub Kindl also had a goal, Rafalski had a pair of assists and Jimmy Howard stopped 31 shots in his first game back after missing two with a strained left shoulder.

"We're fighting for our lives, and they are fighting for their lives," Abdelkader said after Detroit moved five points ahead of second-place Nashville in the Central Division race. "It was a battle, and I think it was a huge road win for us and a big division win."

The Red Wings -- who were coming off a 10-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday -- extended the longest active playoff streak among North America's four major professional sports. They also got to 100 points for an 11th straight season, extending their own NHL record.

"We definitely came out with a lot more urgency and more determination in our game," Cleary said. "We needed that after the last outing. It was rock bottom. Certainly, it was a good step for us. We responded well."

Ryan Suter had a power-play goal and an assist, Sergei Kostitsyn and Martin Erat scored, and Mike Fisher had a pair of assists for Nashville, which led 3-0 after Kostitsyn beat Howard 2:37 into the second period. Instead of chasing the Wings for the division title, the Predators had to settle for a single point that kept them sixth in the Western Conference race.

The Predators certainly had plenty of chances but went 1-for-5 on the power play, including two missed opportunities in the final seven minutes of regulation.

Howard kept the Red Wings alive with a stretching stick save on Joel Ward midway through the third period after Abdelkader had tied the game at 3:59. Howard also stopped Patric Hornqvist trying to score off the rebound of Suter's shot on a power play late in regulation, and denied Kostitsyn's shot from in front 30 seconds into overtime.

Cleary's tip-in was his 25th goal of the season. Rafalski also had the first assist on Abdelkader's tying goal.

Detroit looked primed for a fast start against the Predators when Nicklas Lidstrom scored on an early power play, but it was waved off due to a goaltender interference call on Tomas Holmstrom.

The Red Wings killed off that penalty, before Abdelkader was penalized for boarding Erat, and Holmstrom was called for delay of game for putting the puck over the glass 27 seconds later, giving Nashville a 5-on-3. Suter scored on a slap shot from the high slot at the 19-minute mark for a 1-0 lead.

Erat picked up Nashville's second power-play goal early in the second and Kostitsyn made it 3-0 with a slap shot at 2:37, prompting Detroit coach Mike Babcock to take his timeout. It worked wonders, as the Wings scored twice in the next 2:12.

"We had a three-goal lead for what, two minutes? Three minutes?" Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It didn't feel like we had a three-goal lead and just gave it away. They were right back in the game."

Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi and Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien fought briefly, and that seemed to fire up the Red Wings. Kindl scored on a snap shot at 3:28 after a turnover by Nashville, and Abdelkader made it 3-2 by scoring 1:22 later on a tip-in.

Abdelkader tied it with 16:01 left in regulation, beating Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot.

"The guys could have easily sagged, but they didn't. They responded," Babcock said. "I thought we had a good physical play tonight."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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