The Red Wings didn’t really belong in Wednesday’s game, if you looked at the statistics or watched for any length of time.

The Boston Bruins dominated for long stretches, and were the better team for 40 minutes.

But they play 60 minutes. And the Red Wings were just good enough for just long enough to steal a 3-2 victory over the league-leading Bruins.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard made 33 saves and was the Red Wings’ best player, and the youth brigade of Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Gustav Nyquist all had a goal, as the Red Wings won their third consecutive game.

“In all of our play, we were cautious,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know if we were too respectful, but we weren’t good in anything. But we found a way to get going in the third period and win a game. This wasn’t our best game but we found a way to win.”

And win against a Bruins team that has 110 points (52-18-6) and hadn’t lost in regulation in 16 games (15-0-1), or since March 1 in Washington.

With the victory, the Red Wings (36-26-14) moved three points ahead of idle Columbus in the chase for the top wild card spot — and thereby avoiding Boston in the first round.

The Red Wings are playing loose, with increasing confidence, and can smell the playoffs.

“We knew they were a good team and they’d come at us,” said Nyquist, who continued his torrid scoring streak with the winning goal, his 28th. “We just had to stay with it, and in the end keep calm.

“We needed Howie to be great and he was. He bailed us out a couple of times. We kept fighting and competing and it was a nice to get away with two points.”

Tomas Jurco and Nyquist scored 1 minute, 42 seconds apart midway in the third period, erasing a Boston lead and giving the Red Wings the 3-2 lead.

Nyquist’s goal, his 23rd in the last 28 games, broke the tie.

Nyquist stole the puck between the circle and the blue line and started up ice. He blazed right past Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, an annual Norris Trophy candidate, and beat goalie Tuukka Rask with a shot from near at the hashmarks at 12:48.

Nyquist noticed Chara had just come onto the ice, and caught him flat-footed.