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Wings win 50th, deal blow to Wild

by Brian Hunter
It took longer than expected, but the Detroit Red Wings won a historical game on Sunday. In the process, they may have ended the playoff hopes of the Minnesota Wild.

Marian Hossa took a Tomas Holmstrom pass and beat Niklas Backstrom from the right circle with 55 seconds left in regulation to lead the Wings past the Wild 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena, their 50th win of the season.

Detroit became the third NHL franchise ever to record four consecutive 50-win seasons, joining Boston (1971-74) and Montreal (1976-79), while coach Mike Babcock joined Scotty Bowman as the only coaches to accomplish the feat. Babcock has done it in his first four seasons with the team, which had never been done.

More important to Babcock and his players, the team snapped a three-game home losing streak. Jiri Hudler and Pavel Datsyuk also scored as the Wings remained six points behind San Jose for the Western Conference lead with four regular-season games remaining.

"I think the third period was the kind the kind of hockey you're going to have to play come playoff time," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

The Wild managed to play that type of hockey for 59 minutes, but their inability to get the game to overtime and secure at least one point left them a difficult road ahead. Minnesota is three points out of eighth place and has only three games left on its schedule.

"We came here to play good and try and take two points," said Backstrom, who made 41 saves and was performing brilliantly before Hossa's goal. "We came close to getting one, but we didn't come out with anything."

Cal Clutterbuck and Marian Gaborik scored to help Minnesota overcome a 2-0 deficit.

"The only thing we can do is work as hard as we can," Clutterbuck said. "The rest is out of our hands."

Datsyuk, whose goal was his 32nd of the season, started the play that led to Hossa's winner and picked up his 63rd assist.

"Pasha (Datsyuk) got the puck and he just chipped it to Homer (Holmstrom), and Homer took the puck to the middle and he just serve it to me perfectly," Hossa said. "I just tried to make sure the puck was stable on my stick and tried to shoot it high glove and it worked."

Hudler and Datsyuk struck just 1:04 apart midway through the opening period to stake Detroit to the lead. Hudler's career-high 23rd goal came at 11:21 when he got off a one-timer following a Henrik Zetterberg feed. Datsyuk made it 2-0 by moving across the slot and lifting a backhander over a sprawling Backstrom.

Clutterbuck gave the Wild some positive momentum before the period was over, intercepting a pass by Chris Osgood (21 saves) and putting a shot into the net with 1:26 left before the goalie could get back into position.

Backstrom was at his best in the second, stopping all 18 shots he faced, and Gaborik scored off a goalmouth scramble with 1:03 to play for his 10th of the season and seventh in eight games since returning from a long absence due to injury.

If the Wings weren't already aware they had a fight on their hands, they knew it heading into the third period and responded in turn.

"We knew how desperate they are. They need to win every game to get into the playoffs," Hossa said. "We felt an urgency in the dressing room, too, that this was a playoff game."

Material from wire services was used in this report.
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