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Surging Red Wings try to stay hot in Montreal

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Red Wings have picked an excellent time to match their longest winning streak of the season. The club hopes to further solidify its playoff chances with a fifth straight win in Saturday's road test against the Montreal Canadiens.

Detroit is chasing its 23rd straight playoff appearance and the club has certainly boosted the odds of participating in another postseason during its recent four-game win streak.

With 88 points and five games left in the regular season, the Red Wings are three ahead of Columbus for the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is one point in back of the Blue Jackets and New Jersey is two behind the Maple Leafs.

Detroit scored three times in the first period against visiting Buffalo on Friday and then held on for a 3-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena. Daniel Alfredsson posted a goal and an assist to help lead the offense, as the Red Wings posted their third four-game winning streak of the season.

Tomas Jurco and Darren Helm also scored, while Jimmy Howard had 21 saves for the Red Wings.

"Obviously it was huge for the standings but we still have to get a few more wins here to get in," said Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist. "I feel that every time we win the other teams win too. Everybody lost tonight which is nice to hear but obviously we have to get a few more wins."

The Red Wings haven't won five in a row since a six-game winning streak from Feb. 8-19, 2012.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk played for the first time since Feb. 27 on Friday and the star forward registered one shot on net in 17 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time. He had missed 16 games due to inflammation in his left knee. The three- time Selke Award winner has 15 goals and 18 assists in 39 games this season.

Montreal has already clinched a playoff spot and is currently second in the Atlantic Division with a two-point lead over Tampa Bay, which expects to be the Canadiens' likely first-round postseason opponent. Detroit is in fourth place, seven points behind Montreal and five behind the Lightning.

The Canadiens won for the ninth time in 11 games on Friday, slamming the Senators, 7-4, in Ottawa. Max Pacioretty recorded his third hat trick of the season and added two assists for a career-high five points, as Montreal roared back from an early three-goal deficit to beat Ottawa.

Mike Weaver and David Desharnais added a goal and a helper each for the Canadiens, who moved alone into second place and ahead of the Lightning for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

"We still had confidence," said Pacioretty. "We knew that they had gotten the bounces early on, but obviously you look at the shots and we definitely got some favorable bounces and that's just the way it goes some nights. But it just shows our last two games against them, you're never down and out."

Friday's contest was the first meeting between the clubs since the "Miracle in Montreal" on March 15, where Habs rallied from 4-1 down in the game's final 3:22 to win, 5-4 in OT at Bell Centre.

Andrei Markov and Lars Eller also hit the back of the net for Montreal and Thomas Vanek contributed three assists. Peter Budaj allowed a trio of scores in the game's first six minutes, but recovered to snag the win thanks to 39 saves.

Carey Price expects to start on Saturday and is 3-3-1 with a 2.82 goals against average in seven career games against Detroit. Jonas Gustavsson will get the call in net for Detroit and is 5-2-1 with a 2.16 GAA in nine career games against the Canadiens.

The Red Wings won the first two encounters with the Habs this season before Montreal recorded a 5-4 regulation win in the Motor City on march 27. Five total goals were scored during a wild third period in that meeting, including three by the Red Wings, but the Canadiens were able to hold on for the win.

The Red Wings have won six of the past nine meetings overall and have taken three of the past four encounters at the Bell Centre.

04/05 11:22:40 ET