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Red Wings 4, Maple Leafs 2

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TORONTO -- Left winger Darren Helm scored a hat trick, helping the Detroit Red Wings earn a crucial two points with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Helm capitalized off Leafs defenseman Cody Franson's turnover at the Detroit blue line and broke in all alone on Toronto goalie, Jonathan Bernier, beating him stick-side at 8:38 of the third completing the hat trick.

Toronto nearly made it a one-goal game with just over three minutes remaining in the third as a shot got through the pads of Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, but defenseman Brendan Smith was there to clear the puck before it crossed the goal line.

With the win, Detroit (34-26-14) moves two points clear of Washington and Toronto for a wild-card spot. The Leafs, meanwhile, are two points back of a wild-card spot, but Detroit, Columbus and Washington all have two games in hand.

The win snaps Detroit's two-game skid while extending Toronto's to eight games. The Leafs (36-32-8) have lost eight straight in regulation for the first time since the 1985-86 season.

It was also Toronto's ninth loss in 10 games.

Left winger Gustav Nyquist had Detroit's other goal.

Franson opened the scoring. Center Joffrey Lupul had Toronto's other goal.

Howard made 25 saves in his ninth straight start while Bernier made 24 saves for his third straight loss.

Detroit scored twice on three shots in a 1:32 span to erase a 1-0 deficit and take a 2-1 lead.

Helm tied it 1-1, shorthanded at 3:05.

Toronto center Phil Kessel turned the puck over, giving Helm a breakaway, which Bernier stopped. Then defenseman Jake Gardiner turned the puck over in his own zone, allowing Helm to score the equalizer.

After Howard robbed Lupul at the side of the net with his left pad near the four-minute mark, center Gustav Nyquist picked up the rebound off a Johan Frazen shot, which hit Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf, and beat Bernier for his 26th of the season at 4:37.

Nyquist now has 21 goals in 26 games.

Helm picked up his second of the night, and ninth of the season, re-directing Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl's point shot past Bernier to give Detroit a 3-1 lead at 7:57.

Lupul pulled Toronto to within one, taking a feed from a falling Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly and beating Howard low stick-side for his 22nd of the season at 18:57 of the second.

Franson opened the scoring at 10:57, beating Howard with a blast from the point for his fifth of the season. The goal snapped an 18-game drought for Franson (Jan. 30). With his assist on the goal, Gardiner now has 10 points in 12 games.

NOTES: Toronto recalled LW Jerry D'Amigo from their American Hockey League affiliate. ... Leafs D Paul Ranger (neck) missed his fourth game. ... Entering Saturday's game, Detroit was one of four teams with 80 points in the Eastern Conference, but remained in the final playoff spot with more non-shootout wins than Washington and Toronto. ... Red Wings LW Henrik Zetterberg (back), LW Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration), LW Daniel Cleary (knee), RW Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder) and D Jonathan Ericsson (finger) all missed Saturday's contest. ... Leafs RW Colton Orr was a healthy scratch Saturday.

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