Maltby scored his second goal of the night 2:39 into double overtime to lift Detroit to a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of their first-round series Friday.
He ended the 3½-hour game with a long shot from outside the right circle that was deflected past goaltender Dwayne Roloson by the stick of Edmonton teammate Rem Murray.
"Our coaching staff has been harping on us to get the puck on the net because you never know what can happen," Maltby said. "My shot just clipped his stick, and more times than not, those are the kind of goals that win in OT."
Maltby made it 2-all with 6:17 left in regulation when he scored off a rebound on a goal that stood after a video review. He had just five goals this season after scoring 14 in each of the previous two.
"You need guys like Malts to win at playoff time -- he competes," coach Mike Babcock said after coaching Detroit for the first time in the postseason.
Roloson made 54 saves.
"Unfortunately, they got a lucky bounce at the end of the game," Roloson said. "You can't fault our guys at all."
Manny Legace, who made just 23 saves for the Red Wings, said he felt a sense of relief.
"Especially when it goes to double overtime and the other goalie stands on his head," Legace said. "We got lucky."
Game 2 of the best-of-seven Western Conference series is Sunday in Detroit.
The Oilers had a chance to steal the game against the Stanley Cup favorites, but Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said his team has to get over the disappointment quickly.
"You can't carry that baggage long in postseason because that really debilitates you ability to bounce back," MacTavish said.
Three of the four regular-season meetings went to overtime with Detroit winning the lone game decided in regulation. The Red Wings won once in overtime, and the Oilers won a game in overtime and another in a shootout.
The Red Wings entered the playoffs with the best record in the NHL for the third time in four seasons, but they are coming off two straight early-postseason exits.
Detroit got off to a good start, with Robert Lang scoring on the power play for a 1-0 lead 4:05 in, but Legace gave up goals on two of the first seven shots he faced.
Edmonton's Sergei Samsonov made it 1-all midway through the first period, and Chris Pronger's slap shot from just inside the middle of the blue line at 8:43 of the second gave the gritty Oilers the lead.
Maltby scored his first goal when he charged toward the net and got the middle of his stick on a rebound off Johan Franzen's shot. The sellout crowd erupted when the red lamp was lit and did again following a review.
The fans booed just as loudly when Detroit's Brendan Shanahan was called for roughing with 1:50 remaining in regulation, but they were happy again when Legace turned away the Oilers with about 15 seconds left.
"We had lots of opportunities to win the game ourselves," MacTavish said.
Roloson, acquired on March 7 from Minnesota, made 14 saves in the first period and 16 in the second before facing fewer shots in the third. He stopped 16 shots in the first OT.
The NHL journeyman gave Hockeytown a flashback to the outstanding goaltending the Red Wings faced when Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff and Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere helped their teams eliminate Detroit in the second and first rounds of the 2004 and 2003 playoffs, respectively. Those clubs both reached the Stanley Cup finals.
The Oilers haven't advanced in the playoffs since 1998, when Dallas eliminated Edmonton for the first of five straight postseason appearances, with the last one coming three years ago.
Detroit is the most experienced team in the playoffs with more than 1,500 combined games and 26 Stanley Cup rings, while the current Oilers entered the postseason with 449 games of experience and no championships.
The Red Wings are in the postseason for the 15th straight season, the longest active streak in professional sports.
Center Pavel Datsyuk, who led the Red Wings in scoring this season, missed the game as expected because of a left thigh injury. He said "maybe" when asked if he'll be ready for Game 2. ... Oilers left winger Ethan Moreau (groin) was also scratched. ... Chris Chelios, Detroit's 44-year-old defenseman, has appeared in 21 postseasons, tying Ray Bourque's NHL record. ... Maltby had his second career two-goal game in the playoffs and first since 1997 in the conference finals against Colorado. It was also his second OT goal in the playoffs, first since 1999 against the Avalanche.