In a series that has been back and forth the entire way, any other ending than the one that took place in Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night wouldn't have been fitting. Game 7 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks lived up to all of the hype, with the end coming on a gritty goal from Dan Cleary late in the third period, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 win in the game and in the series.
Playing in front of a charged up fan base, the Red Wings completely dominated the Ducks in the first half of the game. Jiri Hudler would draw first blood for the Wings, deflecting a perfect pass from Johan Franzen over the shoulder of Jonas Hiller, putting the Wings up 1-0 in the first period. The Wings continued to control the pace of the game, and kept peppering Hiller with shots all the way until the end of the first period.
It would be more of the same early in the second, with Darren Helm capitalizing with a breakaway goal only 1:17 into the period. Helm picked up a deflected Marian Hossa pass and streaked past everyone, snapping the puck past Hiller to put the Wings up by two. However, Detroit would fail to convert on a 5-on-3 power play during the period, and Anaheim would capitalize late in the period, when Teemu Selanne slammed home a rebound, cutting the lead to 2-1. However, the Wings would fight back and extend the lead back to two when Pavel Datsyuk would collect his own rebound and slip a pass in front of the net to Mikael Samuelsson, who banged it past Hiller for a 3-1 lead. But the two goal lead would be short lived, as Corey Perry slipped a Chris Pronger rebound past Chris Osgood to make it a 3-2 game. Osgood's heroics in goal would preserve the lead at the intermission however, as he stopped three Ducks attempts in a ten second span to maintain the Wings one goal lead.
In the third, the Ducks would capitalize on an unfortunate break for the Red Wings, when Brad Stuart lost his stick behind the net and Jonathan Ericsson ran in to it, losing the puck. Perry would slip a pass across the front to a wide open Bobby Ryan, who slammed home the tying goal. After that point, the third period was a back and forth affair, with both teams getting quality chances, but neither converting. That is, until the 3:00 minute mark, when Cleary would provide the ultimate in Game 7 heroics, tipping a Henrik Zetterberg pass behind Hiller, who then slid backwards, knocking the puck into his own net. As the clock wound down, Detroit ramped up their stifling defense, never really allowing Anaheim a great scoring chance and wrapping up an incredibly hard fought series.
Chris' Red Wing of the Game
Look, Osgood was fantastic tonight, making some unbelievable saves to keep the Wings in the game. But the nod goes to Cleary tonight, whose gritty game winning goal was emblematic of the nature of the entire series.
Now it's on to the Western Conference Finals, where the Wings will meet their familiar foe and divisional opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks. The series will begin this weekend, so be sure to check back frequently, as the 'Winging It' team will be bringing you breakdowns and predictions all the way up to the start of Game 1.