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Red Wings explode in third to power past Blues

DETROIT (Reuters) - Danny Cleary netted two goals and led an offensive outpouring in the third period to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 7-3 victory over their Central Division rivals the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.

Right wing Cleary delivered the go-ahead score with 7:34 remaining, the first of four unanswered goals in just over three minutes for Detroit, who blew the game open after it had been tied at 3-3.

Henrik Zetterberg, Brad Stuart and Tomas Holmstrom tacked on the final three scores.

"I feel pretty confident for sure. It's pretty hard not to be," Cleary told reporters after scoring a goal in his sixth straight game. "I've got a good line. We're creating a lot of opportunities and trying to work hard."

It was the fourth straight win for the pacesetting Red Wings (12-3-1) as they stretched their division lead to three points over the Chicago Blackhawks and four points over the Blues (9-5-3), who have now lost five in a row.

Brad Boyes, Brad Winchester and Andy McDonald scored for St. Louis, but goaltender Jaroslav Halak allowed a career-worst seven goals as the Blues fell apart down the stretch.

"It was going to the third period tied 3-3, and I don't know what happened," Halak said. "We just couldn't stay with them and they scored on pretty much every chance they had."

Halak allowed six goals to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, a personal-worst effort prior to Wednesday's performance.

His recent rough patch is a contrast to the way he sparkled in the early part of the year when St. Louis tied its franchise-best start with a record of 9-1-2.

Looking for its first win since Nov 7, the Blues fell behind 1-0 on a goal from Detroit's Drew Miller at 8:05 in the first but Boyes tied it for the visitors less than two minutes later.

Winchester put St. Louis on top before the Red Wings surged ahead on scores by Justin Abdelkader and Cleary. McDonald tied the contest 3-3 at 17:07 in the second.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner; Editing by Alastair Himmer)