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Jeff Petry scores winning goal as Canadiens move back into playoff spot

Jeff Petry scores winning goal as Canadiens move back into playoff spot
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Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry battles for the puck with Wings Justin Abdelkader, left, during second period in Detroit on Tuesday night. Paul Sancya / Associated Press

DETROIT — Coach Claude Julien says goals are harder to score as teams move into the second half of the season, but the Canadiens broke out of a two-game slump as they defeated the struggling  Detroit Red Wings 3-2 Monday night at Little Caesars Arena.

The victory moved the Canadiens back into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but their position can best be described as tenuous. Montreal holds the second wild-card spot with 51 points. They moved one point ahead of the New York Islanders, who dropped a 4-2 decision to Carolina, but the Islanders are in an advantageous position because they have played three fewer games.

Defenceman Jeff Petry, who was the goat Monday night when his turnover led to the lone goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 1-0 win over the Canadiens, scored 19 seconds into the third period to give the Canadiens a 3-1 lead. Petry’s ninth goal of the season became the game-winner when Andreas Athanasiou scored on a power play for his second goal of the night and his 17th of the season. Former Red Wing Tomas Tatar picked up his second assist on the Petry goal.

The Canadiens scored twice in the first two minutes of the second period to grab a 2-0 lead.

Montreal had gone 108:43 without a goal when Brendan Gallagher scored his team-leading 16th at the 30-second mark. This was a trademark Gallagher goal as he stationed himself in front of the net and scored on the rebound of a shot by Tatar.

Joel Armia, who was promoted to the top line to help Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin break out of their doldrums, upped the count at 1:46 when he beat Jimmy Howard on the glove side with a shot from the faceoff circle. Domi and Jordie Benn picked up the assists.

Antti Niemi made the start on the tail end of the back-to-back set and he was solid. He lost his shutout when Athanasiou scored at 6:49 of the second period to cut the Montreal lead to a single goal. Niemi made 30 saves to boost his season record to 7-4-1.

Shea Weber , who was struck in the face by a puck and left Monday’s game against Minnesota after the first period, warmed up with a full cage, but he took it off for the game. If Weber was feeling any discomfort, it wasn’t reflected in his play. He fell just short of his customary ice time of 25 minutes and he was involved at both ends of the ice.

It was another dismal night for the Montreal power play, which went 0-for-2  and is 0-for-11 over the past five games. Detroit went 1-for-5 with the extra man.

The Canadiens made several lineup changes, starting in goal, where Niemi replaced Carey Price .

Matthew Peca and Charles Hudon joined Kenny Agostino on the fourth line, with Nicolas Deslauriers and Michael Chaput getting the night off. Hudon returned to the lineup after seven games as a healthy scratch. He has dressed for only two games since Nov. 27.

Liveblog: Canadiens edge Wings 3-2
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