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Red Wings fly past Blue Jackets to widen West lead

DETROIT (Reuters) - The Detroit Red Wings grabbed a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday to sweep the home-and-home series and strengthen their grip on the NHL's Western Conference.

The Red Wings (15-4-2), who defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in Columbus on Friday, now have a four-point lead over the Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks atop the conference.

Detroit entered the two-game set coming off a disheartening 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers that had left them tied with Columbus for first in the Central Division.

"We embarrassed ourselves in Atlanta," Detroit coach Mike Babcock told reporters. "Every once in a while, you get away from things and you need to be reminded. We were able to get back on track and win these two games, and it was an important two games for us."

Niklas Kronwall, Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula netted three straight goals for Detroit, including two in a 14-second span during the second period, and Danny Cleary clinched the game with an empty netter with 59 seconds remaining.

Jimmy Howard made 27 saves and hung tough when the Blue Jackets pulled to within 3-2 on a power-play conversion from R.J. Umberger with 1:31 left in the game.

Steve Mason recorded 38 saves for Columbus (14-8-0), who scored the game's opening on a tip-in by Derick Brassard.

It marked the first time that the Blue Jackets dropped two straight games this season and was only their second loss on the road.

"We're a good team, but that was a good indication that we still need to get better," Brassard said. "There's a lot of room to keep improving."

The Red Wings improved to 10-1-2 at Joe Louis Arena. They played without center Mike Modano, who is out indefinitely after the center severed a tendon in his right wrist Friday.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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