The Detroit Red Wings locked up their ninth Central Division title in the past ten seasons with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Sunday afternoon.
The division championship was clinched one day after Detroit made the playoffs for the twentieth consecutive season, the active record in North American pro sports.
Darren Helm opened the scoring for the Red Wings just 2:46 into the game. Helm took a pass from Patrick Eaves in the slot and drifted towards the right faceoff circle before snapping a shot past Minnesota netminder Jose Theodore.
Nicklas Lidstrom made it 2-0 with 20 seconds left in the first and the teams skating four-on-four with a blast from the blue line that went through a screen set by Pavel Datsyuk, playing in his first game since March 17.
The Wild pulled back to within a goal at 4:32 of the second period, when Brad Staubitz knocked the puck out from under Jimmy Howard and into the Detroit net.
Detroit regained the two-goal lead with 7:22 left in the period. With the Red Wings on the power play, Tomas Holmstrom got the puck in the high slot and skated around a diving Brent Burns before snapping a shot past Theodore.
Johan Franzen banged the puck past Theodore from in close at 6:11 of the third to put the Red Wings up by three.
Detroit thought they had a 5-1 lead later in the period when a Brad Stuart shot beat Theodore but the goal was waived off because Justin Abdelkader had been knocked into the net.
The Wild finished off the game’s scoring with 3:06 remaining when Carson MacMillan beat Howard on a rebound try for his first career goal.
Howard finished the night with 27 saves on 29 shots while Theodore maade 30 saves on 34 chances.
The Red Wings went one-for-three on the power play. Minnesota was scoreless on five power play tries.
Detroit is now off until Wednesday when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes before a season-ending weekend series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
With Datsyuk’s return to the lineup, the Red Wings rested forward Mike Modano… Niklas Kronwall remained out of the lineup on the blue line and Kris Draper was a healthy scratch.