Wings clinch Central with win over Wild
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:05 AM
Chalk up another Central Division title for Nicklas Lidstrom
and the Detroit Red Wings
Lidstrom scored to help the Red Wings beat the Minnesota Wild
4-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday night and clinch their ninth division title in 10 seasons and the 14th since 1991-92, when No. 5 was a rookie.
"I've got a few of those," Lidstrom joked, gesturing toward a red Central Division championship T-shirt and black baseball cap. "We're in a tough division with Nashville and Chicago, so it always matters to finish first."
The Red Wings moved one point ahead of idle San Jose, which has played one fewer game, for second place in the Western Conference with a week left in the regular season.
Perhaps more importantly, Detroit is getting some key players back on the ice.
Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk
played for the first time since March 17, returning from a lower body injury, and Jimmy Howard
made 27 saves in his second straight game after missing two because of an injured left shoulder.
"As soon as Pav gets on the ice, the whole team suddenly has more space," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
scored his third goal of the season to pull Minnesota within one early in the second period and helped set up Carson McMillan
's goal in his NHL debut with 3:06 left to make it 4-2.
"I thought our defense competed and played hard," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "We lacked the other things you need against a team as good as that."
Detroit hasn't started well at home lately, but did against the Wild when Darren Helm
scored 2:46 in. Lidstrom scored with 20 seconds left in the first period.
After Staubitz gave the Wild some hope with a goal early in the second, Tomas Holmstrom
restored Detroit's two-goal lead midway through the period.
's goal might not have meant much in the game, but it was potentially a good sign for the Red Wings because they will need him to be the scoring threat in the playoffs that he has been in the past. He scored for just the second time since a five-goal game on Feb. 2 at Ottawa.
While not overly important, this goal allowed Detroit to coast in a game that gave the storied franchise another division title.
The Chicago Blackhawks are the only other team to win the Central Division since 2001, breaking Detroit's streak last year before winning the Stanley Cup.
"The first thing that pops out at you is the skill level," Minnesota winger Andrew Brunette said. "The way they make the first pass, they've got Lidstrom, who is the best at it. I think he's the best player in the League in the past 15 years."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.