Red Wings send Ducks packing
Chicago up next in conference finals
DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings were pushed to the brink of elimination on home ice by the Anaheim Ducks.
Dan Cleary came through though, scoring a tiebreaking goal with 3 minutes left that lifted Detroit to a 4-3 win last night that sent the defending Stanley Cup champions to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year.
"Most teams that have won the Stanley Cup don't even get here," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "For us to be in this situation is a real positive, but we have a hungry Chicago team waiting for us."
Detroit will host the Blackhawks in Game 1 Sunday, matching up the Original Six teams in the playoffs for the first time since the conference finals in 1995.
"It should be fun," Babcock said.
Before Detroit did it, Colorado was the most recent NHL team to reach the conference finals after hoisting the Cup. The Avalanche lost to Detroit, 7-0, in the deciding game in 2002.
The previous two Cup champions met for the third time since the NHL expanded in 1967, and all three series went the distance. The Edmonton Oilers needed overtime to get past Calgary in 1991, and Montreal beat Boston by two goals in 1971.
Unlike those winners, second-seeded Detroit was at home against eighth-seeded Anaheim, which knocked off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in the first round.
Five of the games were decided by a goal, including Game 2 in triple overtime.
"It was the best series I've been in," Babcock said.
Anaheim's Jonas Hiller had a lot to do with the competitiveness, making 36 saves in the finale.
"What made this series so hard and what people don't understand, the people that have won know what it takes to win," Babcock said. "That's what made them so hard to get rid of."
Chris Osgood stopped 24 shots for the Red Wings, who couldn't protect a two-goal lead in the second period.
"It was a tough series, probably one of the toughest we've played in a long time," Osgood said.
Detroit's Jiri Hudler, Darren Helm, and Mikael Samuelsson scored.
Cleary set up a matchup with his former team by scoring the winning goal, stuffing the puck past Hiller after Henrik Zetterberg flipped it into the crease.
"When you're that close with so few minutes left, it's tough to lose," Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer said.