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DETROIT - Dan Cleary's tiebreaking goal with three minutes left lifted the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last night and sent the defending Stanley Cup champions to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year.
Anaheim's Jonas Hiller made 36 saves, and Chris Osgood stopped 24 shots for the defending champions, who couldn't protect an early two-goal lead.
Jiri Hudler, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson scored for the Red Wings, who will next face the Chicago Blackhawks in a matchup of Original Six teams.
Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry cut into deficits and Bobby Ryan made it 3-3 at 7:37 of the third.
The previous two Cup champions met in the playoffs for the third time since the NHL expanded in 1967, and all three have gone 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.
Cleary scored the winning goal by stuffing the puck past Hiller after Henrik Zetterberg flipped it into the crease.
"You know Z was in the corner made a good play, put it on net, I stayed with it and got it under Hiller," Cleary said.
The game ended in thrilling fashion after it appeared the Red Wings might win in a rout as they did in their last Game 7, beating Colorado 7-0 in the 2002 Western Conference finals.
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf was called for two penalties in the first period and Detroit took advantage of the second.
Just when it looked as though Anaheim would kill it with a clearing attempt, the Red Wings kept the puck in the Ducks' end to set up the first goal. Zetterberg passed to Johan Franzen, who pushed the puck from the right boards to the front of the net where Hudler poked it in.
Anaheim failed on an extended 5-on-3 power play in the first period when the game was scoreless.
Detroit took a two-goal lead 1:17 into the second period.
Selanne committed a turnover in Detroit's end, Helm got to the loose puck and scored on a breakaway.
Selanne left the ice late in the second after Niklas Kronwall's hit, which drew a penalty and cut Selanne's nose. He returned and started an offensive outburst with a goal off a rebound in what was the first of three scores in 2 1/2 minutes.
Samuelsson and Perry also scored off a rebound late in the second period, and Detroit went into the third with a 3-2 lead.
BETTMAN IMPRESSED: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game and said the league didn't just become intriguing when three of the conference semifinal series were decided in a Game 7. "This entire season - the regular season, the first round of the playoffs and second round - have been incredibly competitive, exciting and entertaining," he said. "That's something we have strived for and built toward since coming out of work stoppage with a new economic system, changing the rules, and officiating standards."42.33168 -83.04792 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Pro!
Dan Cleary's tiebreaking goal with three minutes left lifted the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night and sent the defending Stanley Cup champions to the Western Conference finals for the third straight year.