DENVER -- The Detroit Red Wings were close to falling to eighth. A big overtime goal from Pavel Datsyuk and now they're just three points out of third in the Western Conference.
Datsyuk scored his second goal of the game with 15.4 seconds left in overtime, and the Red Wings beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
Jimmy Howard stopped 33 shots and Gustav Nyquist also had a goal for the Red Wings, who stayed a point ahead of St. Louis in the Western Conference playoff race with a game against the Blues on Monday.
"St. Louis has two games in hand, it's a big game plus we always have fun playing against them," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
P.A. Parenteau and Mark Olver scored for the Avalanche, who have lost 11 of their last 13.
The Red Wings won it when Henrik Zetterberg, who had two assists, put a soft shot on Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The goalie didn't cover it up and Datsyuk poked it in with defenseman Matt Hunwick pushing him from behind.
"They were throwing a lot of stuff at the goal," Giguere said. "I saw Datsyuk coming toward me. I made the first save but the puck went right to his stick. It's just an unfortunate way to finish this game because I thought we played pretty well."
The win helped Detroit hold onto the seventh spot in the Western Conference, a rare time in the last 22 seasons the perennial Stanley Cup contenders have needed to fight for a spot in the postseason.
Detroit has made the playoffs for 21 straight seasons, eight shy of the NHL record set by the Boston Bruins in the mid-1990s. The Red Wings will have to play well in their last 10 games to hold off Edmonton and a restocked Columbus team that was active at the trade deadline.
A strong push could move them into a high seed when the playoffs start in a few weeks. Friday's win gave Detroit 43 points for the season, within striking distance of No. 3 Vancouver, which has 46.
"We needed these points," Datsyuk said. "We have a tough situation in the fight for the playoffs and we're happy we finished this way."
The Red Wings did enough against Colorado to help their postseason chances. Datsyuk scored on a power play midway through the first period to give them a 1-0 lead.
After Olver tied it on a breakaway with 8:24 left, Nyquist beat Giguere 13 seconds later to give Detroit the lead right back.
"It bobbled in the middle and the puck kind of came right to me and just tried to fake the shot, have him go down and tuck it in short side," Nyquist said
The score stayed 2-1 until Parenteau scored when he tipped in a pass from Jamie McGinn with 13:31 left. Colorado, rejuvenated by the goal, controlled the play for most of the third period and had several chances to take a lead but couldn't capitalize.
It was a tough loss in another down year for the Avalanche. A decade ago a game between these teams featured the top teams in the Western Conference -- and the NHL. Since then the Red Wings have continued to thrive, winning two Stanley Cups and almost a third while Colorado is on its way to another high pick in the June amateur draft.
"It's just frustrating right now," Giguere said. "We can all feel the pressure and it's just unfortunate."
Losing another one-goal game to the Red Wings after outshooting them 16-6 in the third period added to the frustration.
"It's the story of our year, really," Parenteau said. "It seems like we can't catch a bounce lately. This one is heartbreaking."
NOTES: Zetterberg's two assists in gives him 399 for his career. ... The Avalanche have allowed seven power-play goals in 19 home games this season. ... Detroit's Johan Franzen has four assists in the last three games. ... Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey was activated from IR before the game. Quincey was out with facial fractures suffered March 15 against Edmonton. He has missed the last 10 games. ... Avalanche center Paul Stastny continues to be out after suffering a foot injury March 24 against Vancouver. He was placed on IR and was expected to miss 10 days but is approaching his second full week of inaction.