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Wings use late burst to beat Blues 7-3

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- The St. Louis Blues are sporting dark blue T-shirts with the phrase "Halak-ness Monster" printed on the back, in reference to goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Halak was indeed a monster to start the season -- posting three shutouts in nine games as the Blues streaked out to 20 points in their first 12 contests. Recently, however, the "Monster" lurking in goal for St. Louis has looked decidedly human -- and facing the red-hot Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night didn't help.

Halak looked good for 2 1/2 periods at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, but the Wings unleashed a monster offensive attack in the third to win 7-3. They scored four times in a span of 3:14 midway through the third to improve their record to 12-3-1 overall and 8-1-1 at home, while the Blues (9-5-3) dropped to 0-4-1 in their last five games.

Detroit's Danny Cleary, Henrik Zetterberg, Brad Stuart and Tomas Holmstrom each scored in the third to turn what was a tie game into a blowout, and Jimmy Howard made 33 saves. Cleary earned first-star honors by scoring twice to extend his streak of games with a goal scored to six and his points streak to seven games.

"I feel pretty confident for sure. It's pretty hard not to be," said Cleary, who's gotten hot as the right wing on a third line with Todd Bertuzzi on the left wing and Mike Modano at center. "I've got a good line. Bert's playing great. Mo's playing great. We're creating a lot of opportunities and trying to work hard."

One streak that didn't get extended was Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom's run of 11 games with at least a point scored, but didn't matter thanks to the powerful Detroit attack.

Cleary's second goal - and ninth of the season - broke a 3-3 tie at 12:26 of the third off a backhand feed by Modano from behind the net. Zetterberg scored his fifth of the season unassisted at 13:12 by using a spin move at the point, skating into the left circle and firing a wrist shot over Halak's shoulder to make it 5-3.

St. Louis came into the game having played one more game than Detroit and trailing by two points in the Central Division standings. The Wings now have 25 points in 16 games played. Still, Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn't pleased with the entire effort in the latest win.

"They worked harder than we did in the first two periods," he said. "In the end when we engaged, it was great to see us get a win and it was great to see we had that ability."

For Cleary, it's starting to seem like everything he shoots goes in, but he's not ready to call his shots.

"I'm not going to get ahead of myself," he said. "I don't know how to explain it other than the line's playing good. I feel healthy and feel good on the ice. When I get the puck I just try to shoot in on net and good things will happen."

The Wings added power-play goals by Stuart and Holmstrom just 1:10 apart after the Blues took some bad penalties following the first two goals allowed. There was also a scrum in the corner in the last few seconds of the game, as both teams let loose frustrations.

The Blues looked stunned by the bevy of late goals, and Halak sounded equally befuddled.

"It was going to the third period tied 3-3, and I don't know what happened," Halak said. "We just couldn't stay with them and they scored on pretty much every chance they had."

Halak has now given up 19 goals in his last four games.

"He knows that he's the guy who's in charge back there," St. Louis coach Davis Payne said. "The last couple haven't gone his way. He certainly hasn't been his best. We've got two good goaltenders but he knows that he's going to shoulder the burden and shoulder the bulk of the work in our net. Any player goes through it. You've got to make sure you regroup."

Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader also scored for the Wings, while Brad Boyes, Brad Winchester, Andy McDonald scored for the Blues (9-5-3).

McDonald added two assists and Boyes added one for St. Louis' multi-point games, while Brian Rafalski (3 assists), Niklas Kronwall (2 assists), Cleary (2 goals), Abdelkader (2 points) and Miller (2 points) had multi-point games for Detroit.

It was also a milestone game for Detroit General Manager Ken Holland, who saw his team win in his 1,000th game as the Wings' GM - becoming just the 27th general manager in League history to reach that mark.

The Blues led just once, when Winchester made it 2-1 with his first goal and first point in 12 games at 8:16 of the second on a power play. He went to the net and tipped a pass from the corner by McDonald through Howard's pads while being checked.

Abdelkader tied it 2-2 at 13:42 by redirecting a low slap shot by Rafalski through Halak's pads. The teams then traded goals within a 37-second time span late in the second, with Cleary scoring his first and McDonald potting one for St. Louis to go into the second intermission tied 3-3.

In the first, Detroit went up 1-0 on Miller's first goal of the season -- which was actually assisted by Halak more than any Red Wing. Miller fired a shot from the high slot and Halak made the initial save, but in the process of swatting the puck away the goal stick tapped it twice and it went backward into the net on the second hit.

"I was just trying to play the puck in the corner and got a weird bump," Halak said. "(Stuff) happens. We just have to regroup and try it again against Ottawa."

Detroit's lead was short-lived. Just 1:32 later, Boyes backhanded a loose puck in the slot past Howard to knot it 1-1.

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