MONTREAL -- The Detroit Red Wings were defeated 4-3 in overtime by the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday on a goal by Lars Eller 1:21 into overtime. But minutes later, Detroit clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Detroit (42-25-14) is heading to the postseason for the 24th straight season because they got one point and the Boston Bruins were defeated by the Florida Panthers in regulation shortly after.
"They can say whatever they want," said Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard about Detroit backing into the postseason. "We're in the playoffs."
Montreal goalie Carey Price made 24 saves for his team-record 43rd win to move ahead of Hall of Fame Canadiens goalies Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden, with whom he shared the previous record of 42 wins.
"I definitely have a lot of respect for what they accomplished in their careers," Price said. "They went on to obviously win Stanley Cups, and that's my ultimate goal."
Montreal forward Tomas Plekanec tied the game at 3-3 with a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 11:39 of the third period.
The Canadiens (49-22-10) got that two-man advantage at 11:07 when Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith was called for interference after he handled a puck in play with his glove while he was sitting on the Red Wings bench.
Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist, Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm scored, and Jimmy Howard made 22 saves for the Red Wings, who have won three of four.
"It's definitely a weird scenario," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "But I thought our game tonight, we battled hard. There wasn't a lot of room out there, but we found a way to get that big point, Howard was big for us. Obviously our power play wasn't good enough, but we found a way to get a point and eventually that got us in this season."
Helm gave Detroit a 3-2 lead at 3:34 of the third period when he scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway. He intercepted Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov's cross-ice pass in front of the Detroit blue line and drove in on Price, who he deked before putting a shot into the top of the net for his 15th goal.
Helm has scored two of the Red Wings' three shorthanded goals this season.
"Just great determination all year, the stick-to-itiveness," Howard said. "It hasn't been going our way as of late. After that long road trip out west, we took nine out of 12 points on that grueling road trip, it's been sort of up and down. But we did a great job battling and we found a way."
Markov had a goal and an assist, and Jeff Petry scored for Montreal. Defenseman P.K. Subban had two assists.
Montreal is two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division and can win the division with a win Saturday at the Maple Leafs, or by finishing one point ahead of Tampa Bay, which finishes the season against Boston on Saturday.
"Every game we want to obviously get the win and to get the one tonight is great but I don't think we should come off the gas at all in our next game," Petry said. "We've got to have a strong finish going into the playoffs."
Datsyuk set up Tomas Tatar's 29th goal at 10:19 of the first period, and scored his 26th goal at 8:07 of the second to tie it at 2-2. Henrik Zetterberg assisted on each of those goals.
"There's no secret we like to play with each other; we have good chemistry," Zetterberg said about teaming up with Datsyuk. "We had that 10 years ago, and it's fun to see that we still have it."
Markov scored his 10th goal at 17:36 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1. Petry put the Canadiens ahead 2-1 with his seventh goal at 6:24 of the second, which extended his point streak to six games.
"I thought we were playing good," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought they had three bad goals. I thought we did lots of good things and could have found a way to win, sometimes it doesn't happen. Some nights you pick up your goalie, some nights he picks you up, that's just the way it goes.
"The bottom line is we found a way to get in the playoffs and we needed 98 points, if you can believe it, to get in the playoffs. I thought 96 would be enough, and we needed 98, and I'm thrilled to do that."
Babcock said he has not decided on his starting goalie going forward, including the Red Wings' final regular season game at the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. He was not pleased with some of the goals Howard allowed Thursday.
"Well, they can't go in, period," Babcock said. "It's the National Hockey League, they can't go in."
The Canadiens were without their leading scorer, forward Max Pacioretty, who has an upper-body injury and will not play Saturday.