The Detroit Red Wings knew a return to the Stanley Cup Finals would be a tough task. Not only did they have to take down a Chicago Blackhawks squad that was fighting for their playoff life, they had to do so without the services of Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper and Jonathan Ericsson. But in true championship form, the Red Wings stepped up to the plate and delivered, as Darren Helm slammed home the series clinching goal, sending the Red Wings back to the Finals.
The first two periods were nothing short of an absolute slug fest, with Detroit pounding Chicago netminder Cristobal Huet with 21 shots in the first. But Huet and his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Chris Osgood, both stood strong, and after two periods of play, the game remained scoreless. Both sides had opportunities on the power play, as well as prime scoring chances, but neither team could convert.
The opening part of the third period looked to be just all-too-similar to the first two periods, until Dan Cleary finally broke the ice, redirecting a shot from Brett Lebda past Huet to put the Wings up 1-0. In a game where scoring was at a premium, it was easy to believe that Cleary's tally could wind up the game-winner. However, Patrick Kane had other ideas, lifting a backhand shot past Osgood to tie the game at one goal apiece with just over seven minutes left to play in regulation. As the clock wound down to overtime, Detroit had a golden opportunity to put the Blackhawks away, as Johan Franzen had an open backhand rebound find his stick after a two-on-one with Marian Hossa. As Franzen attempted to lift the puck over Huet's outstretched body, the Chicago goaltender kicked out his right leg, deflecting Franzen's shot wide of the net and ensuring that the game would head to overtime.
However, overtime would belong to the Red Wings, who brought pressure early and often. Their tenacity was finally rewarded at the 3:58 mark, when Lebda ripped a shot from the point that was deflected through the crease by Tomas Holmstrom and slammed home by Helm, sinking the Blackhawks once and for all.
Chris' Red Wing of the Game
In addition to netting the game winning goal, "Speedy" was also instrumental in killing off three Blackhawks second period power plays, as well as dishing out eight hits during the course of the game.
The next stop for the Red Wings is a Stanley Cup Finals rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Game 1 is at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night. The puck drops at 8:00 PM and you can catch the action on NBC.