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NHL

Detroit closes in on berth in playoffs

– The Detroit Red Wings moved a step closer toward extending their postseason streak to 22 with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Jordin Tootoo netted the go-ahead goal early in the third period, and Johan Franzen scored on a power play with 6:26 left, lifting Detroit into eighth place in the Western Conference.

The Red Wings, who have won two straight games, are one point ahead of Columbus and one behind seventh-place Minnesota. All three teams have two games remaining in the regular season.

“We’re trying to crawl our way back into the playoffs,” Detroit’s Jimmy Howard said after a 23-save effort.

Detroit has been in every NHL postseason since 1991 in what has become the longest active run in North American professional sports.

“Everybody is talking about 21 years the Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “What’s the biggest accomplishment is what they’ve done since the salary cap.”

The Sharks and Red Wings are the only teams who have been in the playoffs every season since the 2004-05 lockout, which led to the league’s salary cap.

While San Jose is in the postseason again, Detroit still has work to do to earn a spot.

The 10th-place Dallas Stars, who are four points behind Detroit, host Columbus tonight and Detroit on Saturday. The Red Wings will also face the banged-up and already eliminated Nashville Predators today at home.

Detroit’s win eliminated Phoenix from the playoff race.

Howard said the team has gotten used to playing with a sense of urgency toward the end of the lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule.

“They’ve all felt like a playoff game here for a while,” Howard said.

“So, it’s just two more here, and hopefully get the job done.”

The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings are trying to finish fourth to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They will host San Jose, which also has a chance to be fourth, on Saturday.

LIGHTNING 5, MAPLE LEAFS 2: In Tampa, Fla., Martin St. Louis scored three goals and Tampa Bay snapped a six-game losing streak.

St. Louis, who has 16 goals this season, took over the lead in the NHL scoring race with 58 points – two more than teammate Steven Stamkos and injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby.

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