COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Even though probable Hall of Famer Brett Hull scored the winning goal, the focus was on Detroit center Jason Williams.
Hull snapped a tie midway through the third period, and the Red Wings stretched their unbeaten streak to six games with a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
But Williams, a healthy scratch the previous 20 games, scored twice for Detroit.
``I've got to give him a tremendous amount of credit, for a young guy to go through what he's gone through the last couple of months,'' Detroit coach Dave Lewis said of Williams, who has practiced with the team lately but hadn't seen any game action. ``He deserves a lot credit. He opened the eyes of his teammates and coaches.''
Henrik Zetterberg added an empty-net goal for the Red Wings, winners of eight of 11 despite being riddled with injuries to key offensive players.
The Red Wings have won 15 of 19 games between the clubs and entered with the most points in the Western Conference, one more than Colorado in the race for the top playoff seed.
Williams was eager to play and contribute.
``It felt really good to get back in the lineup,'' said Williams, who scored Detroit's first two goals. ``I've been really waiting for this moment and I happened to get some good scoring chances.''
Rookie Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and an assist, and Trevor Letowski also scored for Columbus, which has lost four straight.
Detroit's Curtis Joseph, making his first start since missing 11 games due to a sprained right ankle, finished with 31 saves. He also made a diving stop that led to Hull's goal.
Joseph said he was a bit rusty and acknowledged that his ankle was sore during the game.
``I was great at times and so-so at times,'' he said.
His best play was when he knocked the puck away from NHL goal-scoring leader Rick Nash, alone in front, propelling the Red Wings on a rush. Steve Yzerman quickly skated up the ice and got a pass to Nicklas Lidstrom.
Lidstrom fed Hull for a one-timed slap shot from just inside the blue line at 12:05. Hull has three goals and five assists in seven games.
``Unfortunately for us, two guys fell behind the net and Nash was knocked off balance and that's how they got a four-on-two rush,'' Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said. ``They don't miss too many of those, especially with Brett Hull shooting.''
Letowski gave Columbus a 1-0 lead at 5:36 of the first period when he curled around the left post and stuffed a shot past Joseph, who was out of position.
Williams made it 1-1 by whipping a backhander over Marc Denis' right shoulder at 11:27.
``We've been working on little breakaways in practice here and there,'' said Williams who took newly acquired Robert Lang's spot in the lineup. Lang, the NHL's fourth-leading scorer, broke a rib against Tampa Bay on Monday and is expected to miss at least three weeks.
In the second period, Columbus failed to score on a two-man advantage that lasted nearly two minutes. Joseph made at least three stellar saves, including one from close range on Zherdev.
``I think once we killed those (five-on-three penalties) off that kind of gave us a lift,'' Joseph said.
Lewis liked what he saw of Joseph.
``I thought he really battled hard five-on-three and made some huge saves,'' Lewis said.
Williams scored on a breakaway at 7:46 to make it 2-1.
Zherdev tied it 2-2 10 minutes later, skating in from the left boards, sidestepping defenseman Jiri Fischer and scoring his eighth goal with a low shot from the slot.
|Trevor Letowski (10) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (12), Scott Lachance (4)|
1 - 0 CBJ
|Jason Williams (3) ASST: Brendan Shanahan (25), Jiri Fischer (12)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jason Williams (4) ASST: Ray Whitney (25), Mathieu Schneider (32)|
2 - 1 DET
|Nikolay Zherdev (8) ASST: Manny Malhotra (10), Luke Richardson (5)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Brett Hull (23) ASST: Nicklas Lidstrom (27), Steve Yzerman (26)|
3 - 2 DET
|EN - Henrik Zetterberg (14) ASST: NONE|
4 - 2 DET
|Power Play %||23.8%||21.7%|
|% on Road||20.7%||21.5%|
|% at Home||26.6%||22.0%|
|Tim Jackman Hooking against Steve Thomas|
|Steve Thomas Diving against Tim Jackman|
|Tim Jackman Hooking|
|Jaroslav Spacek Tripping against Tomas Holmstrom|
|Boyd Devereaux Hooking - Obstruction against Manny Malhotra|
|Darren McCarty Tripping against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Chris Chelios Hi-sticking against Jaroslav Spacek|
|Kirk Maltby Cross checking against Rick Nash|
|Tyler Wright Hooking against Derian Hatcher|
|Scott Lachance Holding against Tomas Holmstrom|
|Jamie Rivers Slashing against Nikolay Zherdev|