DETROIT (Ticker) -- Captain Steve Yzerman's emotional return proved to be an inspirational one as the Detroit Red Wings took sole possession of first place in the Central Division with a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
Yzerman played for the first time this season after missing the first five months following right knee surgery. He entered the game a minute into the contest and was greeted with a standing ovation.
"I just tried to take it as any normal game and I tried to prepare as I normally would," Yzerman said. "Going out for warmups and having everyone cheering was a little unusual. That got me fired up a little."
"I think the emotional boost was early when the fans were cheering," Red Wings coach Dave Lewis said. "I think it was very emotional. Guys didn't say too much. They were lightly joking before the game started but once the game started, it was back at it. He's just a number on the team, but I could tell they were happy to have him back in the locker room."
After helping the Red Wings to their third Stanley Cup championship in six years, Yzerman underwent surgery to alleviate pain that bothered him throughout last season's playoffs.
"I don't know that I'll have the speed that I had before, or that I'll be as mobile as I was before, but I still feel that I can be an effective player," he said. "I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen (be 100 percent), but maybe that's not out of the question."
The longest-serving captain in NHL history, Yzerman took 17 shifts, playing 13 minutes, and won nine faceoffs.
"The toughest thing was to get the puck and look out when there's guys coming at you - trying to react," he said. "At first, I was trying to corral the puck and see where guys are and then try and make a play. The pace of the game wasn't a problem. Just the pace of trying to get something done.
"In the first period I got a pass from Nick (Lidstrom) and tried to shoot it. It felt like it took me 20 seconds to actually get it from my skates to my stick and it was deflected. I have to get sharper."
Detroit's was not the only bench feeling the excitement.
"It was great to see Steve back," Kings coach Andy Murray said. "We didn't know what to do on the bench. The crowd was giving him a standing ovation and we didn't know if we should clap, too. Everyone has so much respect for him. I worked with him on Team Canada, so I know him. I felt like clapping, too."
Brett Hull, Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov each contributed a goal and an assist and backup goaltender Manny Legace made 26 saves for Detroit, which moved two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues in the Central.
The Red Wings improved to 6-0-0-1 in their last seven games, scoring at least four goals on five occasions over that span.
After falling behind 4-1, Los Angeles tried to rally, but fell to 1-2-0 on its five-game road trip - which ends Thursday in Columbus.
"I like to think this game is a mirror of our season," Murray said. "We'd like to battle to the end of the year. There were so many times tonight that our team could have folded and we didn't do that. I think the Red Wings respect us because they know we'll battle them. It was a special night for them, but we competed.
"We gave up a few goals that we'd like to have back, but we had quite a few scoring chances. Legace played well for them. The unfortunate thing is, we scored four goals in Detroit and still lost. That's disappointing."
Detroit is 4-0-1 in its last five home contests with Los Angeles.
Tomas Holmstrom gave the Red Wings a 4-1 lead with a power-play goal with 2:27 left in the second period. Hull took a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle and the puck hit Kings goaltender Jamie Storr's left skate and went in off the skate of Holmstrom, who was headed toward the net.
A video review showed the goal was legal, allowing Holmstrom to establish a new career high for goals in a season with 17. He has four goals in his last three games.
However, Laperriere scored a little more than two minutes later, backhanding home a rebound for his fourth goal.
Belanger moved Los Angeles within a goal with 6:52 left in the third period when he put a slap shot into the high left corner from the right faceoff circle.
A slashing penalty to Yzerman at 14:53 gave the Kings an excellent opportunity to gain the equalizer, but Detroit's defense stiffened.
As the penalty expired, Fedorov got a drop pass from Brendan Shanahan at the left circle, skated in on Storr and tucked a backhand between the goaltender's legs.
"(Fedorov) just threw it over my stick," Los Angeles defenseman Dmitri Yushkevich said. "It was a great play by him. Maybe I should have let him shoot, but I thought, 'He's such a great player, let someone else take the shot.' There were so many choices for him and so many for me. I've played against him 10, 12 years and I've seen him do that a lot -- but not to me."
Derek Armstrong got the Kings within a goal with 2:06 to go. Ziggy Palffy acepted a cross-ice pass from Bryan Smolinski at the right circle and found Armstrong down low for his 10th goal to pull the Kings within a goal.
"It doesn't count if your team doesn't win," Armstrong said. "At this level, it's all about wins and losses. If you don't win, everyone could have done better, including myself."
Los Angeles pulled the goalie, but could not draw even.
"The mentality of this team is to never quit," Armstrong said. "If we can take any positive out of tonight, it's that we didn't lie down and quit."
Yzerman came in with 20 seconds left to take an important faceoff in Detroit's own zone.
"I thought he played a real solid game," Shanahan said. "He took some important faceoffs for and took some contact. If I looked that good in my first game back after surgery, I'd be happy."
Hull opened the scoring with 4:22 left in the first period with his 24th goal. He put in a tough-angle shot from the right side that went off Storr's right pad and into the net.
"The goal that put them up 1-0 was from the corner of the rink," Murray said. "I thought it was a fortunate goal for them."
Hull's two-point night puts him one away from 1,300 career points and gives him four goals and nine assists in his last seven games. He has 45 goals and 24 assists in 62 career games against Los Angeles.
Larionov doubled Detroit's advantage 40 seconds into the second period. Fedorov came around the right side of the net and centered a pass to Larionov, who redirected the puck into the net for his seventh goal.
Larionov has three goals and 11 assists during a seven-game point streak, while Fedorov has four goals and 10 assists in his last eight contests since complaining about playing time.
Schneider scored his 13th goal with a blast from the top point on the power play at 5:37 to cut Los Angeles' deficit to 2-1. The Kings lead the NHL with 35 goals from their defensemen.
"I didn't see the first one (goal)," Legace said. "I didn't see a lot of the shots tonight. I struggled. I had to come up with some saves late in the third period."
But Kirk Maltby restored Detroit's two-goal lead with 4:05 remaining in the second period. He scored his first goal in 18 games and 12th of the season when he picked up a loose puck alongside a pig pile in front of the Kings' goal and put it into the net.
Storr, who had one player on his back, stayed on the ice for several minutes, but never left the game. He finished with 26 saves.