DETROIT -- Prepare to raise another banner to Joe Louis Arena’s crowded rafters Hockeytown, the Red Wings have secured the best record in the NHL.
Henrik Zetterbergscored from behind the net with 11.4 seconds remaining to give the Red Wings a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night, wrapping up the sixth Presidents' Trophy in team history.
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Zetterberg bounced the puck off the back of Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire into an open net for his 43rd goal of the season, completing a Detroit comeback in the last four-minutes of regulation.
Winning the Presidents' Trophy and the league’s top overall record guarantees the Red Wings home ice advantage throughout the entire 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I think that anytime you can finish and have the opportunity to play in your building throughout the playoffs is a positive thing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Plus, if actually the best teams finish higher then that means you’re putting off the best teams for later. Now to me, anybody gets in the playoffs in the West are the best team. We’re all the same, so it’s going to come down to determination and goaltending and health.”
The two Central Division rivals played to a scoreless tie in the first period. Dominik Hasek made eight saves in the opening period, while Leclaire made 11. The best scoring chance of the period came on a Detroit penalty kill, when Dan Cleary fired a snapshot over Leclaire’s shoulder, only to have the puck strike the crossbar.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey struck first for Columbus, scoring a power play goal seven minutes into the second period. With the Wings’ Mark Hartigan penalized for tripping, Hainsey beat Hasek with a slapshot from just above the left circle.
Two minutes later, Hartigan answered back, scoring his second goal of the season, beating Leclaire from just outside the crease, knocking home his own rebound. Aaron Downey and Niklas Kronwall added the assists.
Columbus defenseman Aaron Rome scored his first career goal to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead early in the third, beating Hasek with a one-timer from the blueline.
Johan Franzen continued his magical scoring touch from March, tying the game for the Red Wings at the 16:33 mark of the third, scoring on the power play off a Nicklas Lidstrom rebound.
The tying goal was Franzen’s 27th of the season. Last Sunday, he broke Gordie Howe’s 56-year-old franchise record for most game-winning goals in a month.
Red Wings rookie Justin Abdelkader played his first NHL game on Thursday, logged 11:20 of ice time with three hits, including a collision in the second period, and one penalty for high-sticking Columbus center Derek MacKenzie. The former Michigan State standout signed an amateur tryout contract with the Red Wings just hours before the game.
“The first time putting that jersey on just gave me the chills,” Abdelkader said. “This was the goal in my life, to play for the Red Wings one day, and to get this opportunity is something special.”
GAME NOTES: Scratches for the Red Wings were Kirk Maltby, Brad Stuart, Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, and Tomas Holmstrom. ... Wings center Tomas Kopecky left with an injury with 11 minutes left in the third period, and did not return. ... Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was welcomed to Joe Louis Arena with a standing ovation. Leyland was on hand for a ceremonial opening face-off.
1 - 0 CBJ
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CBJ
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 DET
Interference - Goalkeeper