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
``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
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,''
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.