This was more like it when it comes to a Game 7.
The second-seeded Red Wings and the No. 8 Ducks continued their hearty battle in the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday here at Joe Louis Arena, and Anaheim very nearly pulled off an upset of the defending champs, two weeks after knocking off the top-seeded Sharks.
Instead, it was hard-nosed Dan Cleary, not one of Detroit's marquee players, who willed the Wings into the conference finals by hammering the puck past Jonas Hiller with three minutes to play, giving Detroit a 4-3 victory over the tough Ducks. Detroit will meet the Chicago Blackhawks in a matchup of Original Six teams for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Finals.
"We talked all series about, 'Get it in there, get it in there,' " Detroit captain Nick Lidstrom said in the Red Wings' dressing room after the game. "Dan saw the puck there, he made his mind up he was going to get that puck and get that goal."
Cleary credited Henrik Zetterberg for having the presence of mind to flip the puck in front, knowing Cleary had gained position on Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger when Pronger moved toward Zetterberg.
"Z made the play, really," Cleary said. "I just stayed with it. What else was I going to do? That was the biggest goal of my career considering the situation."
Said Zetterberg, "I saw Pronger leaning in front, so I threw it in there and Dan batted it in there, and it goes between [Hiller's'] legs. It sure felt good when I saw it go over the line."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was asked if he felt that Cleary had pushed Hiller's pad into the puck, which was Hiller's contention after the game.
"It was in the air and he knocked it down and it went into Jonas Hiller's feet and then when he went down, Cleary pushed his pad," Carlyle said. "No, I didn't review if it exactly was behind his leg [and] that caused the puck to go over the line, but it's moot at this point."
Anaheim defeated the Red Wings the previous two times the teams had faced in the playoffs, in 2003 and 2007, and the Ducks wouldn't go away on Thursday, continuing to stifle Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk as well as the other top Detroit scorers, such as Marian Hossa and Zetterberg. The Ducks hung around and hung around, contesting every shot and loose puck.
The Red Wings hadn't played a Game 7 since 2002, when they beat Colorado 7-0 in the conference finals.
Anaheim tied the game at 12:23 in the third period. After a turnover behind the Detroit net, Bobby Ryan got a tip-in with the right side of the net wide open after Chris Osgood made a stop on the other side.
Datsyuk didn't snap his goalless streak, which stands at nine games. He continued to get plenty of good chances, but there seemed to be a lid on the net whenever he took aim. He still helped: The Wings' final goal came when Datsyuk and Mikael Samuelsson flew into the Ducks' zone and Hiller stopped a Datsyuk shot. Datsyuk regained the puck behind the goal and slipped it back to Samuelsson even while he was getting hit, and Samuelsson converted. If Datsyuk couldn't put it in, he'd get it to someone who could.
For all the Ducks' roughhousing at the end of Game 6, when they earned 36 minutes' worth of penalties, it was the Wings who were whistled for two penalties, one on Zetterberg and the other on Niklas Kronwall, within 50 seconds early in the first period.
Detroit killed off the 5-on-3, with Osgood making a good save on Scott Niedermayer and Brad Stuart an even better block on a shot by Pronger. The Ducks had one shot and a miss during the penalties; the Red Wings had two short-handed shots, by Datsyuk and Lidstrom.
The next period, Detroit had a brief two-man advantage, quickly eliminated by a rash of Wings penalties, including Stuart's interference on Teemu Selanne, which left Selanne with a bloodied face. So Detroit went back on the wrong side of a 5-of-3, and killed it again, with Zetterberg providing two big blocks.
Selanne, however, put the Ducks on the board at the 14:56 mark, picking up a rebound, darting around Stuart and shoveling it next to the post.
Wings fans spent much of the first period screaming about the harassment of Johan Franzen. Perhaps from force of habit, they booed Anaheim defenseman Pronger, even though the recently-named "dirtiest player" in the league was one of the few Ducks who didn't engage in any nasty business after the horn in Game 6.
In the second period, though, Pronger pushed Jiri Hudler from behind and Hudler fell into the Ducks' crease and took out Hiller. Hudler was called for interference on Hiller and the Ducks scored on the power play, with Perry sticking in a rebound on the left side of the net after a shot by Pronger, cutting Detroit's lead to 3-2 with just under three minutes to play.
Ryan Getzlaf, one of the Ducks involved in the postgame shenanigans on Tuesday, was in the box for slashing Tomas Holmstrom with 4:17 left in the first period when Detroit put in the game's first goal. Hudler, in front of the net, took a pass from Franzen on the right side and scooped it past Hiller.
Darren Helm gave the Wings their second goal, taking a pass from Hossa and blazing out on a breakaway just 1:17 into the second period and beating Hiller on the blocker side.