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Red Wings beat Predators, seize first place in NHL Central

Associated Press • Mar 15, 2007 at 12:48 PM

DETROIT - Jiri Hudler scored twice and the Detroit Red Wings beat Nashville 4-2 on Wednesday night, passing the Predators for first place in the NHL and Central Division.

Hudler scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period after making it 2-all with 3:37 left in the second.

The Red Wings beat Nashville on back-to-back nights, giving them one more point in the division and a league-high 99.

Both teams competed with playoff-like intensity and that led to plenty of checking, shoving, swinging gloves and trash talk.

Nashville went ahead on goals by Alexander Radulov in the first, and Jason Arnott in the second but the Red Wings responded each time.

Nicklas Lidstrom made it 1-all early in the second and Hudler scored off a rebound late in the period.

On the go-ahead goal, Hudler charged to the net and beat Chris Mason on his short side with a shot from the bottom of the right circle off Robert Lang's pass.

Nashville had a power play with 6:17 left, but didn't get off a shot. Shortly after Mason went off for an extra skater, Kirk Maltby scored an empty-net goal.

Dominik Hasek made 27 saves, helping Detroit improve to 5-1-1 against the Predators.

Their last meeting of the regular season is March 29 in Nashville.

Both teams were missing key injured players, such as Nashville's Peter Forsberg and Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, just as they did in a pair of recent games.

In the previous 10 games, Detroit and Nashville were 6-1-3.

Mason had 31 saves.

Hudler has three goals in two games, including the winner in Detroit's 5-2 victory Tuesday at Nashville. The 23-year-old center is making the most of his first opportunity to play regularly in the NHL after beginning the season with one goal in 16 games. He has 14 overall in 65 games.

Penguins 3, Devils 0

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Jocelyn Thibault stopped 25 shots for his first shutout in more than three years and Pittsburgh completed a two-night sweep of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Jarkko Ruutu scored a fluky game-winner off a Devils' stick and set up an insurance tally by Erik Christensen as the Penguins won their third straight and for the fifth time in six games (5-0-1). Jordan Staal also scored.

Thibault posted his first shutout since Oct. 8, 2003.

One night after a 5-4 shootout win over Buffalo, Pittsburgh pulled to within four points of the first-place Devils (92) in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have 10 games left in the regular season.

Martin Brodeur made 19 saves for New Jersey, which had a two-game winning streak snapped and missed a chance to tie Buffalo for first overall in the East.

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