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Red Wings Clinch Central Division Crown, Beat Minnesota, 4-2

All is right in the Central Division again.

After letting the Chicago Blackhawks take the crown off their hands for a year, the Detroit Red Wings are once again Central Division champions after defeating the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, 4 -2.

Darren Helm, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen each netted goals for the Wings, who needed a win in regulation or overtime to clinch the title. Jimmy Howard stopped 27 shots in net and picked up his 36th win, leaving him just one shy of his career-high total. The Red Wings can finish no worse than third in the Western Conference, and now sit one point ahead of San Jose for second, but the Sharks have a game in hand.

Carson McMillan scored his first NHL goal and Brad Staubitz added a goal and an assist for the Wild, who were officially eliminated from the Western Conference playoffs after losing yesterday. Jose Theodore stopped 30 shots in net.

Helm opened the scoring in the first period, picking up a loose puck in the slot and firing a wrist shot off the crossbar and in. Lidstrom added his 16th goal with just 20 seconds left in the frame, driving in a slapper from the point during a 4-on-4 situation.

Staubitz made it interesting in early in the second, banging home a loose puck through a sprawled Howard to slice the lead in half. Holmstrom restored the two-goal advantage later in the period, working his way around a Wild defender and slipping a shot through Theodore’s legs on the power-play.

Franzen added his team-leading 28th goal 6:11 into the third, banging home a rebound past Theodore. The goal was Franzen’s first since March 5 and just his second since scoring five goals against Ottawa on Feb. 2.

Brad Stuart appeared to make it 5-1 late in the third period, but the goal was waived off due to goaltender interference on Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader was shoved into Theodore, but appeared to get out of the way before Stuart let his shot go.

The Red Wings will get a couple days off to enjoy their championship before going back to work on Wednesday at Carolina. San Jose hosts Los Angeles on Monday night, so keep an eye on that game too.