Number One in the Western Conference

A hat trick by Brett Hull, 41 astonishing saves by Curtis Joseph, and a very high shot percentage by Detroit gave the Red Wings a 6-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. With those two points, the Red Wings have 96 points for the season""keeping a seven point division lead over the St. Louis Blues, and gaining a one point margin over the Dallas Stars for top spot in the Western Conference.

The Senators came out flying, and they were the ones to open the scoring. Karel Rachunek was able to carry the puck in a circle around the Detroit net and leave it in front for Marion Hossa to come in from nowhere and slide it around Joseph.

Joseph held the Senators off for the rest of the period, and the Red Wings tied up the game when they got a power play chance. Peter Schaefer was sent out for high-sticking Chris Chelios, and Rachunek followed for holding just over a minute later. With 52 seconds of 5-on-3 play to work with, the Red Wings were ready to go. Nicklas Lidstrom slid the puck from the right point to Hull at the left. Hull fooled everyone by passing back instead of shooting, and Lidstrom's one-time shot sailed into the net over the left shoulder of goaltender Patrick Lalime.

Ottawa kept right on pushing, and Joseph continued to hold them off, making save after save until his defense would carry the puck away. "He was tremendous tonight," said Ottawa's Jason Spezza. "That's the best goaltending we've seen. It was getting frustrating."

Hull capitalized on an Ottawa turnover early in the second period to give Detroit the lead. He stole the puck from Chris Philips just outside the Senators' zone and carried it in on the right side, then snapped the shot right past Lalime.

The Senators tied the game back up with a power play goal midway through the period. Hossa tripped Mathieu Schneider in front of the net, which went unnoticed by the referees, but gave Bryan Smolinski a clear shot on Joseph. Joseph made that save, but the rebound came free to Mike Fisher, who put the puck into the net.

Hull's second goal of the night regained the lead for Detroit barely a minute later. Henrik Zetterberg pulled the puck out of a tangle of players along the left boards inside the Senators' zone, then set up the pass for Hull at the left circle. With another characteristic snapping shot, Hull put the puck past Lalime.

The Red Wings got another power play chance when Shane Hnidy was sent to the box for hooking, and Zetterberg increased the lead to 4-2. Pavel Datsyuk danced the puck around an Ottawa player near the left boards and sent it to Brendan Shanahan behind the net. Shanahan made the centering pass, and Zetterberg was waiting to one-time the shot up and over Lalime.

Detroit closed out the second period having to kill off a four minute high-sticking double minor penalty to Darren McCarty. They did so successfully, and again, it was Joseph who made the difference.

Shanahan's goal early in the third period was the one that sent Lalime out of the game. Rookie Ray Emery came in to take his place. The Red Wings had a little bit better defensive control in the third period""Joseph was still called upon to make big saves, but not on so many quality shots.

Finally, with just 44 seconds left in the game, Datsyuk and Hull capitalized on another Ottawa turnover. Datsyuk stole the puck at center ice, carried it into the Senators' zone, and sent it across to Hull. Hull whipped a one-time slapshot right past the very surprised Emery, and fans started tossing their hats onto the ice for Hull's third goal of the night.

The final count of shots on net was 43 to 20 in the Senators' favor, much to the bemusement of Dave Lewis. "The goals we scored were tremendous goals," he said. "You look at the shots at the end of the game and think, 'What happened?' But we won the game."

The Red Wings' next game will be Tuesday night at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Notes: Steve Yzerman rested this game after playing yesterday against Colorado.... Hull was honored by the NHL in a small ceremony before the game. A League official presented him with the milestone awards for his 700th goal and 600th assist, and team owners Mike and Marian Illitch presented him with a gold-plated hockey stick.

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