DETROIT – The NHL-leading Boston Bruins followed their game plan of keeping Gustav Nyquist in front of them for more than two periods.
When the puck got loose, and Nyquist got to it, though, one of the game’s best defenseman and goalies couldn’t stop the surging goal-scorer.
Nyquist broke a tie with 7:12 left in the third period on his only shot of the game, and the Detroit Red Wings held on to beat Boston 3-2 on Wednesday night.
“I didn’t think Gus had one of his best games by any means, but he scored a big goal,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Nyquist has a league-high 23 goals since Jan. 20 and a team-high 27 this season. He has given the Red Wings the breakout player they needed to boost their chances of extending their postseason streak to 23 seasons while missing many key players, including Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
The 24-year-old Swede started the season with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins after scoring a total of four goals in 40 games the previous two seasons.
“That’s one of the young players that has come in here, and given the chance to be a front guy has taken total advantage of it,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “Those things probably don’t happen if Datsyuk and Zetterberg are still in the lineup.
“When things like that happen, some guys are really good at stepping to the forefront. He’s done an unbelievable job of doing that.”
The Bruins turned the puck over near Detroit’s blue line, paving the way for Nyquist to score. He raced up ice, skated around defenseman Zdeno Chara and ended his blurring sequence by scoring against Tuukka Rask.
“I think (Chara) came off the bench so it was tough for him to get enough time to gap up, got kind of flat-footed,” Nyquist said. “I just tried to use my speed.”
He has done that a lot lately, scoring in three straight games and having at least one point in 10 games in a row.
Nyquist scored 1:42 after teammate Tomas Jurco tied the game. Jimmy Howard finished with 33 saves to seal the win, strengthening Detroit’s spot as a wild-card team in the Eastern Conference with six games left.
“Howie kept us in the game and gave us a chance,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We didn’t play great, but we found a way.”
Kings 4, Coyotes 0
In Los Angeles, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar scored power-play goals, Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in his sixth shutout of the season, and the Kings clinched a playoff spot with a victory over Phoenix.
Kopitar, Jeff Carter and rookie Tanner Pearson each had a goal and an assist for surging Los Angeles, which has all but locked up third place in the Pacific Division and a first-round postseason matchup with California rivals San Jose or Anaheim.
Islanders 2, Senators 1
In Ottawa, Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist for the second straight night, and New York earned back-to-back victories with a win over the Senators.
Bailey, playing in his 400th NHL game, scored a power-play goal in the first period, and assisted on Casey Cizikas’ winning goal midway through the third. Ryan Strome had two assists, and rookie Anders Nilsson followed up Evgeni Nabokov’s home victory against Florida on Tuesday by making 35 saves. The Islanders have won three in a row and five of six.
Ducks 3, Oilers 2
In Anaheim, Corey Perry scored twice in the third period, and Francois Beauchemin added the winning goal with 1:21 left as the Ducks rallied to beat Edmonton.