Wings Win, Grab 1st Place

Pat Verbeek's first goal with the Detroit Red Wings wasn't one of the prettiest of his career. But it was a game-winner.

"I've really been working on my soccer skills in the offseason," Verbeek joked after a pass from Steve Yzerman deflected off his skate and into the net, helping the Red Wings take sole possession of first place in the Central Division by beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 Wednesday night.

Doug Brown, Mathieu Dandenault and Brendan Shanahan also scored for the Red Wings, who ended a two-game losing streak and broke a first-place tie with the Blues.

Verbeek's first goal since Detroit signed him Nov. 10 as a free agent was most welcomed by a team whose injury list keeps growing longer.

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Game summary

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  • The Red Wings played without injured forwards Kirk Maltby, Sergei Fedorov and Tomas Holmstrom. Darren McCarty, nursing a groin pull, was also absent after the death of his father earlier Wednesday.

    Now Kris Draper, who missed three games after he was hit in the face by the stick of Anaheim's Paul Kariya last week, is out indefinitely with a broken right wrist.

    "You have to find a way to win; you don't make excuses," Verbeek said. "Good teams all find a way to win. We're not using anything as a crutch."

    etroit coach Scotty Bowman said Draper was injured early in the third period on a play where Tyson Nash was penalized for holding Draper's stick.

    "We're probably going to have to bring someone up (from the minors)," Bowman said. "Holmstrom's still a game away and Sergei's going in for a test (Thursday)."

    Yzerman, one goal shy of becoming the 11th player in NHL history to score 600 goals, had two assists. Yzerman had a good chance to score himself on a short-handed break with 4:42 remaining, but goalie Roman Turek blocked his shot from the top of the right circle.

    Craig Conroy and Pavol Demitra scored for St. Louis, which had a five-game unbeaten streak snapped as well as a four-game road winning streak. The Blues, 0-2 at Detroit this season, have not won a regular-season game in Joe Louis Arena since April 13, 1997.

    "It's disappointing we haven't played well in this building," Conroy said. "We have to find a way to win here because this is always a huge game for us. We have to solve the problem, and hopefully soon.

    "It seems like we don't have the intensity. I don't know if we have a little too much respect for these guys. Against other teams we don't play like this. We hit more, we're more aggressive, but here we don't do that."

    Detroit goalie Chris Osgood had 27 saves. Turek, 4-0-1 in his previous five outings, stopped 19 shots.

    Goals from Brown and Dandenault gave Detroit a 2-0 lead after one period.

    "It seems like we're always chasing them here and it's tough to play catch-up against those guys," Blues coach Joel Quenneville said. "We were doing the right things, then they got the goal and we lost a little energy. And then when you're down 2-0, it's quite a battle against them"

    Brown, who was playing for the first time since missing 10 games with a broken foot he suffered Oct. 30, was falling as he took a shot that got past Turek at the 12:44 mark.

    Dandenault scored 2:33 later when he batted Yzerman's rebound on an arc that carried over Turek and into the back of the goal.

    Conroy converted a nice pass from Derek King for a power-play goal 9:21 into the second period to cut the lead to 2-1.

    Detroit got that back on Verbeek's goal with 31 seconds left in the period.

    Michal Handzus set up Demetra's 11th goal 4:23 into the third period that got the Blues back within one.

    Shanahan scored an empty-netter with 30.1 seconds left to clinch the win.

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