DETROIT (AP) _ Manny Legace has been a dependable backup goalie for the Detroit Red Wings.
This season, he's proving to be a lot more than that.
On Saturday, Legace stopped 31 shots in Detroit's 3-0 win over Dallas, his second shutout of the season.
Legace entered the season as Detroit's No. 3 option in net behind Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph. But because of injury problems to the top two, Legace is playing an expanded role and is making the most of it, going 8-1-1 in his last 10 decisions.
``I felt pretty good out there _ comfortable,'' he said. ``It's nice to be a part of the winning firsthand.''
Kirk Maltby, Brett Hull and Darren McCarty scored to help Detroit extend its season-best unbeaten streak to seven games and maintain its lead over Colorado for the Western Conference's best record.
The Red Wings, the league's best home team, are a virtual lock to win the Central Division with a double-digit-point lead over second-place Nashville. Detroit is more concerned about holding off Colorado in the West as well as a tight battle with several teams for the NHL's best record.
Derian Hatcher _ who assisted on Maltby's goal _ played in his first regular-season game against Dallas since signing with Detroit in the offseason. The 31-year-old former Stars captain was playing in his third game since returning from a torn knee ligament that forced him to miss 64 games.
``In the first period, it felt a little bit awkward. But after that, I got into the flow of the game. It was intense and fun,'' said Hatcher, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound defenseman who signed a five-year contract worth $30 million with Detroit after playing the first 12 seasons of his career with the Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars organization.
Dallas, battling San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, was unable to beat the Red Wings this season, going 0-3-1 and hasn't won in Joe Louis Arena since the 2001-02 season.
``I don't know if it's a mental thing,'' Hatcher said. ``I don't know what it is. They haven't had a lot of success against this team in the past couple of years.''
The Stars created a number of quality scoring chances throughout the game, but Legace seemed always to be in position to make the stop.
``He was very good in net,'' said Dallas coach Dave Tippett. ``But we've got to find ways to score. That's the name of the game.''
Dallas captain Mike Modano beat Legace with a minute to play in the game, but the goal was waived off because it came after Dallas was whistled for an illegal substitution.
Asked if he knew why the goal was not allowed, Modano said, ``No. I don't even care. It doesn't matter.''
Hull's 24th goal of the season gave the Wings a 2-0 lead with 8:55 to play in the second period.
Hull, all alone in front of the goal, took a pass from Jason Williams and softly pushed the puck between Marty Turco's legs.
Maltby opened the scoring three minutes into the second period with his 12th goal of the season. Henrik Zetterberg came streaking down the left side and passed the puck to Maltby between the circles. Maltby snapped the puck between Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov's legs and beat Turco low and to his right.
It was Maltby's 100th career goal.
McCarty added an empty-net goal with less than a minute to play. Zetterberg also assisted on McCarty's goal.
Turco, who was a college star at nearby Michigan, made 18 saves.
Detroit captain Steve Yzerman played only one shift because of the flu. He left early in the first period. The Wings already were missing injured forwards Kris Draper, Pavel Datsyuk and Robert Lang and defenseman Mathieu Dandenault.
Ticket Info: 313.471.7575
General Info: 313.471.6606