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Power play leads Wings to ninth straight win

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Columbus Blue Jackets pulled into town on Friday, boasting the league’s hottest goalie and a league-best penalty-kill unit.

Apparently, the Red Wings didn’t get the memo.

Dan Cleary scored two goals and took 20 stitches to close a gash over his right eye on Friday.
Detroit got a pair of power play goals by Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom, and goalie Dominik Hasek returned after a five-game absence to lift the Wings to a 4-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena. It was the Red Wings’ ninth straight win, tying a franchise mark.

As has become a Red Wings’ moniker this season, they badly out-performed their opponents in the shots-on-goal category. Detroit out-shot the Jackets, 36-16. The Wings have now held a shots advantage in 14 of 16 games.

The Wings’ firepower eventually crack the armor of goalie Pascal Leclaire, who entered Friday’s game as the league-leader in shutouts (five), goals-against average (1.12) and save percentage (.957). He is the first goalie in the modern era (since 1943-44) to record five shutouts in his first nine starts.

But the Wings’ fifth-best power play in the league managed to solve Leclaire.

The Wings (13-2-1) took advantage of former teammate Sergei Fedorov, who had a rough time during the first period. First, defenseman Niklas Kronwall stepped into Fedorov with a clean shoulder check – knocking the Blue Jackets’ center to the ice -- as he skated the puck out of defensive zone. Moments later, Fedorov, perhaps in a fit of retaliation, was whistled for holding.

On the ensuing power play, Brett Lebda took a pass from Mikael Samuelsson atop of the right circle and blasted a shot that was tipped by Cleary in front of Leclaire, giving the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 13:00.
Kronwall, who returned to the line-up after missing four with a groin injury, enjoyed his hit on Fedorov.

“Not to bad,” Kronwall said. “I just had to keep the shifts short and just pace myself out there. Once you have a chance to hit someone out on the ice it always feels good.”

The Blue Jackets (8-5-2) began the second period with a 5-on-3 advantage for 54-seconds, and tied the score, 1-1, when the Wings had a turnover deep in their own zone. After David Vyborny stole the puck, the Jackets worked it around the zone before Rick Nash slapped a bouncing puck past Hasek from point-blank range. Fedorov was credited with an assist, just his fourth point (a goal, three assists) against his former mates since leaving Detroit after the 2002-03 campaign.

Cleary left the ice in the second period after he was struck over the right eye when Nash tried to backhand the puck out of the Columbus zone. Cleary was helped off the ice by athletic trainer Piet VanZant, who escorted the Wings’ right wing to the dressing room.

The Wings scored their second power play goal on a typical gritty goal by Holmstrom at 13:53 of the second. He picked-up the puck as it took a bounce off the boards behind the Jackets’ net before making an attempt to sweep it between Leclaire and the post. As Holmstrom took a second crack at it, Leclaire lost his balance, opening the way for Holmstrom’s ninth goal of the season; his fifth power-play tally.

“I was out there for 1:45, so it’s like a big blur,” Holmstrom said. “The shot came down and hit the boards. (Leclaire) left the post open. Luck for me, I scored there.”

Cleary returned in the third – albeit with 20 stitches and a visor – and gave the Wings a 3-1 lead. He took a pass from Kirk Maltby and tapped in his own rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

Henrik Zetterberg finished the scoring for the Wings, when he extended his franchise-best point-scoring streak to 16 games with just 88-seconds left in regulation.

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