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Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler scores one of his two goals on Curtis Sanford in a 6-5 victory over the Canucks on Thursday. ((Paul Sancya/Associated Press))

Even Roberto Luongo would have been hard pressed to salvage a point for the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.

The Canucks failed to hold a slim lead, permitting three goals in less than three minutes early in the third period in a 6-5 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Derek Meech, Nicklas Lidstrom and Daniel Cleary scored in a span of two minutes 45 seconds to put the Red Wings ahead 6-3 at 6:08 of the third.

"We cannot be happy about the way we started the third period," Canucks defenceman Sami Salo said.

Goals from Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows trimmed it to 6-5 with 85 seconds left, but a hooking penalty to Mattias Ohlund kept the Canucks from completing the comeback.  

"It is a good thing they didn't get any more shots," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said.

It marked the third straight setback for the Canucks (14-10-2), who had taken two of the three previous meetings with Detroit.

Luongo, sidelined with a strained left groin, earned a split in two starts versus Detroit earlier this season, with Curtis Sanford posting the other win.

Sanford yielded six goals on 33 shots before he was yanked in favour of rookie Cory Schneider, who made five saves.

"It seemed like they were coming at us in waves at the beginning of the third," Sanford said.

Sanford left Monday's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets because of back spasms, but he stopped all 11 shots he faced before Schneider replaced him at the start of the second period.

Daniel Cleary and Jiri Hudler each scored twice as the Red Wings (17-4-4) skated to their third win in four games.

Lidstrom finished with three points, Brian Rafalski had two assists and Chris Osgood counted 20 saves. 

"Not much panic sets in among the players," Cleary said. "But when you're up 6-3, you have got to tighten up.

"We cannot let teams get back in and get a sniff of it."

Henrik Sedin led the Canucks with one goal and one assist. 

Taylor Pyatt, Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond rounded out the scoring for Vancouver.

Shane O'Brien and Daniel Sedin had two assists apiece. 

Hudler strikes twice

After Pyatt's fourth goal of the season opened the scoring 95 seconds into the contest, Hudler struck twice in five minutes for Detroit.

Capitalizing on a turnover in the Vancouver zone, he finished off a slick tic-tac-toe scoring play involving Valtteri Filppula and Tomas Kopecky to tie it at 5:04 of the first period.

Andreas Lilja later sent a bouncing pass up ice to spring Hudler, who split the defence and settled the puck with his right skate before beating Sanford high to the glove side for a breakaway goal.

Wellwood tied it 92 seconds into the second period as he found a seam between Osgood and the right post for a power-play goal, his 11th.

The Canucks took a 3-2 lead less than three minutes later, when Raymond played the carom off the end boards and ripped a sharp-angled shot past Osgood's left pad for his seventh.

However, the Red Wings refused to wilt and Cleary tipped Lidstrom's point shot to even proceedings with 10:26 left in the period.

Meech, forced to move up from defence to forward because of injuries, broke a 3-3 deadlock 3:23 into the third period on a wraparound that Sanford overplayed for his first goal in 50 NHL games.

"Obviously, it is a huge adjustment from defence to forward," he said. "Just as long as I keep skating and try to create something and bang around out there, things should go OK."

Fifty seconds later, Lidstrom pinched in from the point to score his first goal in 11 games.

Cleary made it 6-3 with his second goal of the game, chipping a Lidstrom rebound over Sanford's blocker at the 6:08 mark.

The Canucks struck back as Daniel sedin's slapshot was blocked by osgood, but Henrik Sedin buried the rebound for his fourth at 8:20.

It remained 6-4 until Burrows deflected Kevin Bieksa's point shot for his seventh, a tally confirmed by video review with 1:25 on the clock.

"That was exciting, post-lockout hockey wasn't it?" Babcock said. "Last shot wins."

With files from the Canadian Press