VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Sami Salo woke up just in time to save the Canucks.
After missing the previous two games with the flu, Salo returned Monday night to set up the tying goal with 2:25 left in regulation and score the winner on a power play 2:33 into overtime, lifting Vancouver to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
"I basically slept the last 96 hours before today, so it's a nice feeling to get the win," said Salo, whose point shot was tipped in by Daniel Sedin to tie it.
That came 50 seconds after Pavel Datsyuk gave Detroit the lead with a power-play goal. The Red Wings outshot Vancouver 34-16 through regulation, but it was all Canucks in overtime.
Vancouver had all eight shots in the extra period, including an early 3-on-2 rush when Willie Mitchell's shot hit Chris Osgood in the mask and a sprawled Ryan Kesler put the rebound off the post.
Salo finally ended it after Johan Franzen was called for interference, one-timing Pavol Demitra's soft pass over Osgood's shoulder from just inside the left circle after the Canucks worked the puck around for almost a full minute.
"I have to thank (Demitra) for that goal," said Salo, who also hit the post in the opening minutes. "I've had a few posts here lately."
Curtis Sanford made 32 saves in his first start since star goalie Roberto Luongo was injured, and Taylor Pyatt also scored for the Canucks, who have won four straight for the first time this season. Vancouver hasn't lost in regulation since a 3-2 defeat to Detroit on Nov. 2, going 8-0-2 since.
"We're rallying around each other," Sanford said. "There's adversity right now and we're finding a way to deal with it. We have each other's back out there and we're going to find a way to get through all this."
Mikael Samuelsson had a goal and an assist for the Red Wings. The defending Stanley Cup champions had their five-game winning streak snapped, but still lead the NHL with a 10-1-2 record on the road.
"We let one slip away," coach Mike Babcock said. "Full marks to them. We gave up 24 shots on the road and very few opportunities and they were able to find a way to win. We took a penalty in overtime and they made a good play."
Osgood finished with 21 saves, but the story in goal was Sanford.
Scored a key goal to get the bus rolling and logged crucial PK minute sin the clutch.
Took eight shots, drew a late penalty that put his team up in the third and threw four hits.
The game winner, an assist, and 22 minutes of ice time for Slammin' Sami.
It was his first start since Luongo was injured Saturday in Pittsburgh, but third straight appearance overall. Sanford won Thursday in Minnesota - his first start in more than a month and first victory in 11 months - and Saturday after replacing Luongo, who is out at least a week, likely longer, with a strained groin.
"It's nice for Curtis," said Sedin, whose late goal was his 400th point. "He's going to be in the net for a while and it's a good start. We know he's a good goalie, so he can keep this going."
Sedin also assisted on Salo's winner.
Samuelsson opened the scoring midway through the first period with a backhand shot that beat Sanford under the blocker, but he stood tall as Detroit outshot the Canucks 10-3 in the second period, including a brief 5-on-3 amid consecutive power plays for the league's top-ranked unit.
Sanford's best save came off a teammate, throwing out his glove at the last second after a cross-ice pass hit Mitchell's skate at the top of the crease.
"I felt confident out there and felt I was moving well," Sanford said. "I think it just comes with playing. Every goalie wants to play all the time, but I feel I'm getting a little more comfortable every game and through every period."
The Red Wings held all the momentum late in the game before scoring the go-ahead goal on their third power play of the contest with five minutes on the clock.
The Canucks answered minutes later to set-up Salo’s dramatic OT winner.
“It was a hard fought game against the Stanley Cup Champions,” said Alain Vigneault. “We’re playing against the best in the league tonight and obviously they outplayed us a little bit in regulation, but we found a way to stick around.”
“It was tough - it was our fifth game in eight nights with a lot of traveling across North America to five different cities. But we found a way to hang in there and when they took the 2-1 lead we tied it up right after. Then they took a penalty in OT and we made them pay for it.”
As he was signed to do in the off-season, winger Darcy Hordichuk gave his team a lift after they fell behind on Samuelsson’s goal midway through the first. Hordichuk dropped the gloves with Darren McCarty on the ensuing face-off and earned a clear decision.
Pyatt tied the game to open the second and get the Canucks train back on track.
Unlike the teams’ previous meeting early in November, the Canucks managed to stay out of the box and duck the Wings power-play punch. Vancouver gave up the 2-1 goal to Datsyuk late in the third, but killed two others against the league’s top-ranked man advantage unit.
The Canucks found a little retribution as Salo’s goal came with the Wings shorthanded in OT. They finished 1-for-3.
The Canucks have gone 8-0-3 in their past 11 games and sit just five points back of the league-leading San Jose Sharks.
Notes: Vancouver lost RW Steve Bernier to an undisclosed injury midway through the first period. ... Red Wings LW Tomas Holmstrom missed his third game with a back injury and isn't expected to return for at least another week. RW Dan Cleary missed his seventh game with a scratched eye, but could return before the end of this week. Detroit used D Derek Meech as a forward in their absence. ... Vancouver D Kevin Bieksa, out six games with a broken foot, has resumed skating and should return to practice this week.
1 - 0 DET
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DET
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 VAN