Facing a two-goal deficit with 2:55 remaining, the Detroit Red Wings pulled goalie Jimmy Howard for an extra skater — the last, desperate option for a team with nothing much left to lose.
"We had enough time," forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
The Red Wings scored twice late in the third period to force overtime, then Justin Abdelkader's goal 4:16 into the extra session gave Detroit a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
Niklas Kronwall had two goals and an assist for Detroit, and his shot from the high slot tied it with 39 seconds left in regulation.
The Red Wings scored both of their third-period goals with Howard pulled.
"We just have to do a better job of protecting," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "Just finding a way. You have to expect, when a team's down, they're going to be desperate, and you have to be more desperate, especially with the talent and skill that they have."
Zetterberg had a goal and two assists. On the winner, he deflected Paul Martin's clearing attempt from behind the net. The puck went right to Abdelkader in the slot, and he beat goalie Thomas Greiss to the stick side.
"Pretty exciting, wasn't it?" Abdelkader said. "We just hung around there and I think we got better as the game went on and found a way. It was the last three minutes to get a couple goals, we don't want to put ourselves in that situation because the chances of that happening are pretty slim."
Pascal Dupuis and Olli Maatta scored in the first period for the Penguins, and Chris Kunitz added a goal in the second.
After the Red Wings pulled Howard, Zetterberg came down the middle and beat Greiss high to the glove side to make it 3-2 with 2:39 remaining. With Howard out again in the final minute, Pittsburgh had the puck in the Detroit zone but was unable to get a shot through into the empty net.
The Red Wings came down the other way on a rush, and rather than attempt a shot from around the crease, Pavel Datsyuk dropped a pass to Kronwall, whose shot from the high slot tied it.
"It's always a battle between both teams and I think it brings the best out of the best players and out of every player," Abdelkader said. "A good team like Pittsburgh over there who's playoff tested and in it every year, a contender I think. It's good to find a way to come back and win."
The Penguins outshot Detroit 16-8 in the first period and looked as though they might be on their way to an easy win when they scored the game's first two goals. After Detroit failed to convert a decent early scoring chance, Pittsburgh came back the other way on a 2-on-1, and Dupuis beat Howard to the blocker side.
Maatta made it 2-0 when he flipped a backhander at Howard's midsection from in close, and the puck slipped through.
Kronwall scored for Detroit with 5:00 remaining in the period. Moments later, Zetterberg had a chance to tie it on a rebound, but his shot from a tough angle missed the net and hit Abdelkader around the forehead.
The Red Wings did a better job controlling play early in the second, but Kunitz beat Howard to the glove side with Pittsburgh's first shot of the period, 8:29 in.
Greiss, who signed with the Penguins after playing for Phoenix last season, has been backing up Marc Andre-Fleury. He was sharp for most of his Penguins' debut on Thursday, but he couldn't hold off the Red Wings at the end.
Detroit outshot Pittsburgh 31-26.
Crosby came breezing in alone early in the third, but Howard stopped him.
NOTES: Detroit RW Johan Franzen is on the short-term injured list with a sore groin. ... The Red Wings haven't allowed a power-play goal this season after holding Pittsburgh's skilled unit scoreless. ... Zetterberg moved past Ted Lindsay for eighth place on Detroit's career list with 730 points.