ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist has picked a good time to get hot.
Nyquist's goal 5:19 into the third period lifted the Red Wings to a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center.
It was Nyquist's fifth goal in his past four games. Detroit is 3-1-0 in that stretch, including three straight wins, and has moved past the Columbus Blue Jackets into the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Red Wings (33-24-13) and Washington Capitals each have 79 points, but Detroit has two games in hand. Detroit and Washington are one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and one behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who hold the top wild-card spot.
"I've been getting some pretty good bounces out there," Nyquist said. "Obviously, I've been getting some great passes too. I'm just trying to put the puck in the net as much as possible."
Nyquist created his own luck on the winner, taking a pass from Riley Sheahan at the Wild blue line along the right wall. He drove to his left and dropped behind a crashing Tomas Tatar, who became the perfect screen between him and Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Nyquist snapped a shot through the screen that snuck inside the right post for his team-leading 21st goal of the season.
"[Tatar] does a great job of driving to the net, drawing the other defenseman," Nyquist said. "It's his goal, really. I just shot it through his screen."
Mikko Koivu opened the scoring on the power play and Charlie Coyle scored on a penalty shot for Minnesota (36-24-11); Kuemper made 27 saves in the loss. With 83 points, the Wild hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Detroit led 2-1 after two periods but surrendered the lead 15 seconds into the third when Coyle was hauled down on a breakaway. Coyle was awarded a penalty shot and beat Howard with a backhand-forehand deke for his eighth of the season.
It was Coyle's first goal in nine games and second in his past 24. Over that stretch, he's gone from second-line center to second-line wing to third-line center. He began the day at third-line wing but coach Mike Yeo said he noticed Coyle from his first shift Saturday and decided to push him up in the lineup.
"I loved [his response to being on the third line]," Yeo said. "You could tell in the first period, he was physical. When he's physically engaged like that he's a huge presence in the game."
The Wild led 1-0 on a power-play goal by Koivu at 5:38 of the first period. Defenseman Ryan Suter held the puck at the blue line and skated down the left wall, passing to Koivu near the left dot. Koivu one-timed a shot over Howard's glove for his ninth of the season, first since Dec. 27.
Detroit countered with a power-play goal nearly five minutes later. Legwand's shot caromed off the left post and came to Smith at the bottom of the right circle. Smith's backhander slipped past Kuemper at 10:34 for his fourth of the season.
"The big thing for Smitty is just [to] be really good defensively and move the puck and the offense will look after itself," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Keep it simple. Sometimes he wants to press and make things happen and he's his own worst enemy. When he plays patient like he is right now, he's been excellent."
Legwand gave Detroit the lead in the second period with a power-play goal after Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner was whistled for high sticking. Legwand took a behind-the-back pass from Sheahan and beat Kuemper to his glove side for his 12th with 2:36 remaining in the period.
"This little stretch here, where we haven't been winning games, I think our penalty kill is at 68 percent," Yeo said. "It's going to be tough. When you're losing one-goal games and your penalty kill is 68 percent, obviously, you have to figure that out."
The Wild had a chance to tie the game late after a holding penalty on Detroit's Niklas Kronwall put Minnesota on the power play with 3:27 to play. Minnesota pulled Kuemper with two minutes remaining to get a 6-on-4 advantage, but managed two weak shots on Howard. It was the second straight game in which the Red Wings have had to kill a penalty late in the game in order to get points.
"We were talking about it on the bench on how we can make it more interesting," Nyquist said. "That's the way it goes sometimes but the killers have done a great job the last two games killing those penalties off."
The Red Wings nearly sustained another injured player in the opening minutes. After a dump-in from center by Koivu, he and Kronwall raced for the puck behind Howard. Kronwall got tangled in Koivu's stick and crashed headfirst into the end-wall. He laid on the ice for several seconds before slowly getting to his feet and to the bench with the help of trainers. He went down the tunnel to the locker room but returned to the game late in the first period and played regular shifts the rest of the game.
"The way he went in, it didn't look too pretty. I thought he was done," Howard said. "But what a relief it was to see him come back over the boards. I think it jump-started everyone a little bit to see him come back out."
The Red Wings and Wild will play Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.