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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings extended their best stretch of success in five years, and kept the Montreal Canadiens stuck in their worst slump of the season.
Darren Helm's second goal with 6:01 left in the third period broke a tie and lifted Detroit to a 3-2 comeback win over Montreal on Thursday night, extending its point streak to 12 games.
"We're playing better," Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "Still, it's not perfect."
Helm scored 1:12 after Justin Abdelkader pulled Detroit into a 2-all tie, scoring off his right skate on a goal that stood after video review.
Petr Mrazek made 21 saves for the Red Wings, whose point streak matches their longest since 2010.
"Mrazek was pretty good," Zetterberg said. "Kept us in and made some big, big saves."
Detroit has pulled within four points of Montreal in the Atlantic Division.
"It doesn't really matter right now," Zetterberg said. "It's a long way to go. We know we're playing well. If we're playing like this we're going to get our points and then we'll be there in the end."
The Eastern Conference -leading Canadiens have lost four straight, their worst skid in a season that started with a 9-0 record and 18 wins in their first 24 games.
"We're facing adversity and that's going to make us stronger," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said.
Montreal's Tomas Fleischmann scored a go-ahead goal 4:30 into the third period, but goaltender Dustin Tokarski couldn't make it stand up. Tokarski stopped 26 shots in his first start of the season while replacing rookie Mike Condon, who has been filling in for the injured Carey Price.
"For his first game, I was really impressed," Therrien said.
Tokarski, who was 6-6 last season for Montreal, shrugged off his relatively solid showing.
"I felt good, but came up short," he said. "I've played here before and have won here."
The Canadiens are also without winger Brendan Gallagher, one of their leading scorers, and broken fingers are expected to keep him out for about another month. Price remains sidelined with a lower-body injury that has kept the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner out since late October.
"We're missing a lot of players," Therrien said.
Helm broke a scoreless tie midway through the second period and Montreal's Sven Andrighetto tied it a couple minutes later.
Fleischmann's slap shot from the inside of the right circle beat Mrazek's blocker. The winger went to the penalty box midway through the third, but Detroit didn't take advantage. The Red Wings had another power play with 7:30 left and made the most of the opportunity off a faceoff won by Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg later had the puck and made a centering pass that Abdelkader redirected into the net with the outside of his right skate.
Montreal defenseman Greg Pateryn had a chance to clear the puck before the game-winning goal, but it went off Datsyuk and stayed in the zone. Abdelkader got to the puck, skated across the crease and lifted the puck past the sprawled-out Tokarski.
The Canadiens hurt their chances to extending the game beyond regulation because P.K. Subban was called for delay of game, putting him to the penalty box with 1:44 left. Montreal pulled Tokarski soon thereafter to have the same number of skaters on the ice, but couldn't score to tie the game.
"We put ourselves in a tough position to have to kill off three penalties in the third period," Montreal center Lars Eller said.
NOTES: Montreal had a lot of fans in Joe Louis Arena, chanting "Go Habs Go!" much to the dismay of fans in Detroit. ... Dan Petry, a former pitcher who helped the Detroit Tigers win the 1984 World Series, attended the game to watch his son, Montreal D Jeff Petry. ... The Canadiens were leading their conference at the start of play on Dec. 10 for the first time since the 1991-92 season. ... Detroit drafted Fleischmann in 2002, with the No. 63 overall pick, and traded him to Washington two years later to acquire Robert Lang. ... Condon gave up three goals in each of his last three games, all losses in regulation. ... Detroit had lost seven straight in the series, matching its longest losing streak in the matchup of Original Six franchises that began playing each other during the 1926-27 season.
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