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NHL

Wings cement Central hold

©Associated Press

March 23, 2003


ST. LOUIS -- Losing a two-goal edge didn't cause the Red Wings to lose their cool. Instead, Detroit responded to maintain its mastery over the Blues.

Nicklas Lidstrom scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Curtis Joseph stopped 24 shots as the Red Wings won their sixth straight, 4-2 on Saturday.

"Overall, we didn't really panic or anything, even when they tied up the game," Lidstrom said. "We still wanted to play our game and that's what we did."

The first-place Red Wings stretched their lead over the Blues in the Central Division to seven points.

The Red Wings have dominated the series of late, going 4-0 this season. St. Louis, which had a six-game home winning streak snapped, has two victories in its previous 14 games against Detroit.

"We've got to find a way to beat this team," Blues center Doug Weight said. "We had a good effort in this game, but we just came up short."

Detroit has won 17 of its past 19 (17-1-0-1).

Lidstrom scored the winner at 11:28 of the third period. Igor Larionov passed to Lidstrom, who was alone on top of the right faceoff circle. Lidstrom slapped the puck by goalie Chris Osgood.

"It was probably as close to a playoff game as we've played in a long time," Red Wings coach Dave Lewis said. "It was physical, intense and emotional."

The Blues came back from a 2-0 deficit with two goals in the third. Doug Weight scored on a power play at 1:53 and Eric Boguniecki got his 20th goal to even the game less than four minutes later. Boguniecki grabbed a loose puck at St. Louis' blue line, skated in and beat Joseph with a wrist shot from the top of the slot.

RANGERS 2, FLYERS 1: After not playing a game in more than a month, all Dan Blackburn needed was 15 minutes to save New York's season.

Blackburn made 28 saves in a spectacular relief effort and Petr Nedved scored the winner late for the Rangers, who are clinging to hopes of breaking a five-season playoff drought.

"It really helped that I found out during intermission that I was going into the game," said Blackburn, who came in at the start of the second period for Mike Dunham, who pulled a hamstring. "It gave me time to get focused and get a little stretch in."

AVALANCHE 8, BLACKHAWKS 1: Alex Tanguay stayed hot with his first hat trick for host Colorado, which clinched a playoff spot.

"I don't know the difference," said Tanguay, who went 16 games in late November and early December without a goal. "I'm still working as hard as I have been all year and now they are going in." He has 20 goals and 33 assists in his past 44 games.

Peter Forsberg had a career-high five assists for the Avalanche, who moved within four points of idle Vancouver for the lead in the Northwest.

SENATORS 3, PANTHERS 1: Marian Hossa scored with 36.7 seconds left for visiting Ottawa, which clinched the Northeast title. Ottawa, which has a league-leading 104 points, has won the division three times in the past five seasons. The loss extended Florida's franchise-record home winless streak to 0-9-2-1. The Panthers haven't won at home since beating Carolina in overtime on Jan. 25. Bryan Smolinski tied it for Ottawa at 9:22 of the third, and Magnus Arvedson scored into an empty net with 22 seconds left.

CANADIENS 5, HURRICANES 3: Saku Koivu and Andrei Markov each had a goal and an assist and Jose Theodore made 34 saves for host Montreal, which ended a seven-game home winless streak. Carolina's Kevin Adams opened the scoring 14 seconds in but Montreal's Francis Bouillon tied it 1:49 later, beating Arturs Irbe for Montreal's second short-handed goal of the season.

MAPLE LEAFS 3, SABRES 2 (OT): Bryan McCabe scored 36 seconds into overtime for host Toronto. The defenseman put a slap shot past goalie Mika Noronen for his fifth goal of the season. Mats Sundin and Robert Svehla each had a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who played their third consecutive overtime game. Buffalo outshot Toronto 14-5 in the second and scored twice to tie it at 2.

DEVILS 4, ISLANDERS 2: Joe Nieuwendyk had a goal and an assist for visiting New Jersey, which won for the fourth time in five games. The Islanders are eighth in the East, four points ahead of the Rangers and six ahead of the Canadiens for the final playoff spot. Martin Brodeur had 18 saves for his 38th win.

THRASHERS 3, BLUE JACKETS 2: Lubos Bartecko scored the winner with 7:04 left for visiting Atlanta, which improved to 14-12-4-1 since Bob Hartley took over as coach Jan. 14. The Thrashers were 12-25-2-4 under Curt Fraser.

PREDATORS 1, FLAMES 1: Rookie Blair Betts scored his first goal of the season with 6:24 left to lift host Calgary. After defenseman Cale Hulse fanned on a pass just outside his own blue line, Betts picked up the puck and whipped a shot past Tomas Vokoun.

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