Riley Sheahan helped the Detroit Red Wings avoid their recent run of slow starts and get a much-needed victory.

Sheahan broke a scoreless tie late in the first period and finished with a career-high two goals to help Detroit take a four-goal lead into the third period and the Red Wings held on to beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 Thursday night.

Detroit had given up the first goal in nine of its previous 10 and lost six of those games. Sheahan helped the Red Wings improve to 29-5-6 when they score first.

"It definitely helps us," he said. "We went into the second with a little momentum."

Sheahan's second goal came 12 seconds after Luke Glendening scored early in the second, then Anthony Mantha's first NHL goal gave the Red Wings a 4-0 lead late in the period.

The comfortable cushion went away in the final period.

Montreal's Tomas Plekanec scored in the opening minute of the third. Paul Byron and Max Pacioretty followed with goals to pull the Canadiens within a goal with 12-plus minutes left.

Petr Mrazek kept the lead and had 26 saves for the Red Wings, who are in a tightly contested race for a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

He insisted it wasn't a concern to give up a huge lead.

"In the end, all that matters is we got the two points," Mrazek said.

As soon as the Red Wings stepped off the ice, players were informing each other that Boston lost to improve their hopes of extending the franchise's postseason streak to 25 seasons.

"We watch (the standings) pretty closely," Sheahan said. "But we're more worried about how we're playing."

Montreal has lost nine of 13, moving closer to being eliminated from the playoff race.

The Canadiens were in the playoffs the previous three years, winning a total of three series, but they have not been able to overcome the loss of Carey Price. The reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner has been out four months with a lower-body injury.

Montreal's All-Star defenseman, P.K. Subban, missed his seventh straight game with a neck injury.

Subban said he most likely will not play in the Canadiens' next game Saturday at home against the New York Rangers.

Mrazek started for the first time since March 15, returning from an illness.

Sheahan scored with 1:14 left in the first period after Detroit failed to take advantage of two power plays.

The Red Wings matched a season high with 21 shots in the second period and scored three times.

"They came up with a lot of speed," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "On our backside we don't have a lot of experience and they took advantage."