Red Wings clinch Central Division championship with win over Minnesota

DETROIT (AP) - Nicklas Lidstrom scored and Jimmy Howard made 27 saves, helping the Detroit Red Wings beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Sunday night and clinch the Central Division title.

Darren Helm, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen also scored for the Red Wings.

Detroit has won nine division titles in 10 seasons and 14 since the 1991-92 season when Lidstrom was a rookie.

The Red Wings moved one point ahead of idle San Jose, which has played one fewer game, for second place in the Western Conference with a week left in the regular season.

Brad Staubitz scored his third goal of the season to pull Minnesota within a goal early in the second period and helped set up Carson McMillan's goal in his NHL debut with 3:06 left to make it 4-2.

Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk played for the first time since March 17, returning from a lower body injury.

Howard was sharp in his second straight game after missing two because of an injured left shoulder.

Detroit hasn't started well at home lately, but did against the Wild when Helm scored 2:46 in. Lidstrom scored with 20 seconds left in the second period.

After Staubitz gave the Wild some hope with a goal early in the second, Holmstrom restored Detroit's two-goal lead midway through the period.

Franzen's goal might not have meant much in the game, but it was a good sign for the Red Wings because they will need him to be the scoring threat in the playoffs that he has been in the past. He scored for just the second time since a five-goal game on Feb. 2 at Ottawa.

Game notes
Minnesota is in a 2-9-1 slump. ... Detroit D Niklas Kronwall (upper body) missed his second straight game. C Mike Modano and C Kris Draper were also out of the lineup. ... Lidstrom has a six-game point streak. ... The Chicago Blackhawks are the only other team to win the Central Division since 2001, breaking Detroit's streak last year before winning the Stanley Cup.

 

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