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Wild roll to 5-2 win over slumping Wings

by John Kreiser

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is not a happy man these days.

Babcock has seen his team struggle to survive a rash of injuries that would have decimated a lesser team. But after dropping to 1-3-3 in their last seven games by losing 5-2 at Minnesota on Wednesday night, he had nothing kind to say about his defending Western Conference champions.

"We had way too many passengers tonight," Babcock said after the Wings allowed three first-period goals and two more in the third. "You can't be successful in this League with passengers, and tonight was disappointing, to say the least."

Antti Miettinen had two first-period goals for the Wild, who improved to 6-0-1 in their last seven games at the XcelEnergyCenter. The lone blemish was the Wings' only win during their slide -- a 4-3 shootout victory at Minnesota last Thursday.

The Wings dropped behind Calgary into ninth place in the West -- the teams both have 59 points but the Flames have one more victory. That's a big dropoff for Detroit, which is accustomed to having a playoff berth locked up by now.

"It's been the case of finding a way to lose instead of finding a way to win," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It feels like we're right there, but we can't get over that hump to get those two points."

Josh Harding made 26 saves for his fourth win of the season and first since Jan. 9 as the Wild moved within three points of the last playoff berth in the West.

"We played very good for the whole game, even considering they played last night and were hungry," forward Martin Havlat said. "At the end of the game we just had more energy than them."

Miettinen and Pavel Datsyuk played "can you top this" in the opening period, with Miettinen twice giving the Wild a lead and Datsyuk answering both times. But Andrew Ebbett's deflection of Greg Zanon's shot at 17:40 of the first period, 26 seconds after Datsyuk's second goal, put the Wild ahead to stay.

Miettinen, who has 15 goals this season, had his third two-goal game in his last seven games. He's finding chemistry again with linemates Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette.

"Now that we're moving, things are opening up," Miettinen said.

The game was still 3-2 early in the third period when the Red Wings went on the power play. But the advantage lasted just 44 seconds before Dan Cleary took a high-sticking penalty, and Eric Belanger fed Guillaume Latendresse for a goal at 3:42, during the 4-on-4. Havlat beat Chris Osgood with a bad-angled shot 71 seconds later for a power-play goal, and the Wings were done.

"We didn't play great, but if I can get in there and steal a game, maybe that could start something," Osgood said. "It didn't happen, so I've got to put my head to the grindstone and keep working hard."

Osgood, who made 20 saves, is 1-6-0 in seven starts since Nov. 7, losing three straight while giving up 11 goals.

"We're confident in the group we have. It's a matter of digging down and getting these wins and playing a lot better in our own zone," said captain Niklas Lidstrom. "I don't think we helped Ozzie out at all."

One thing is for certain: Babcock didn't find anything acceptable about his team's play. The defeat came one night after a 5-4 home overtime loss to Phoenix in which the Wings blew a 4-2 lead in the last 90 seconds of overtime.

"We have to look after this. We have to get it fixed," he said. "Winning is a habit. So is losing. This is unacceptable."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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