Dan Cleary picked up the Western Conference Finals where he left off the previous round, leading the Detroit Red Wings to a win.
Cleary scored the game-winning goal in Game Seven against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, then moved on to score twice against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday to carry Detroit to a 5-2 win.
His first goal was a wrister from the left circle, beating Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin over the shoulder at 8:23 of the first period. Cleary created the play himself, stealing the puck from Brent Seabrook at the Detroit blue line and racing down the left wing boards.
Cleary’s goal knotted the game up at one, as the Blackhawks had taken an early lead when Adam Burish capitalized on a miscommunication between Chris Osgood and Jonathan Ericsson to steal the puck and slip it between Osgood’s pads just 5:25 in.
Johan Franzen put the Red Wings into the lead with 3:22 left in the second, beating Khabibulin on a wraparound.
Kris Versteeg tied the game, banging home a rebound from the side of the net on a Chicago power play at 3:12 of the third period.
Mikael Samuelsson put Detroit back in front 4:19 later, snapping a shot from the right faceoff dot past Khabibulin for a 3-2 lead.
Cleary added his second 1:27 later, tipping a Franzen shot in behind KHabibulin.
Henrik Zetterberg added an empty net goal to finish off the Blackhawks, giving the Red Wings a 1-0 lead in their series.
Osgood finished the game with 30 saves on 32 shots against. Khabibulin stopped 38 of 42 Detroit shots.
Game Two will be Tuesday night from Joe Louis Arena.
Just three days after wrapping up their second-round series with the Anaheim Ducks, the Detroit Red Wings kick off their Western Conference Finals matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The two teams haven’t met in the playoffs since the 1995 WCF, which Detroit won in five games, three of which went to overtime.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock experimented with a set of updated lines in Sunday’s practice, shifting rookie Justin Abdelkader to the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom while Holmstrom moved down to the fourth line with Kris Draper and Darren Helm.
Draper returned to the Wings’ lineup for Game Seven of the series against the Ducks, after having missed the entire playoffs to that point. He replaced Kirk Maltby, who is expected to remain out for Game One.
The National Hockey League announced the schedule for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals on Thursday. The round begins with the Western Conference on Sunday afternoon as the Detroit Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks.
Detroit is the third-overall seed and the Western Conference’s second seed. With the first-round elimination of the San Jose Sharks and the second round loss by the Boston Bruins, the Red Wings are the highest-seeded team remaining in the postseason.
Chicago finished fourth in the Western Conference, reaching the Conference Finals after upsetting the Vancouver Canucks.
The schedule for the series is as follows:
Game 1 – May 17 – @ Detroit – 3:00 PM
Game 2 – May 19 – @ Detroit – 7:30 PM
Game 3 – May 22 – @ Chicago – 8:00 PM
Game 4 – May 24 – @ Chicago – 3:00 PM
Game 5 – May 27 – @ Detroit – 7:30 PM
Game 6 – May 30 – @ Chicago – 8:00 PM
Game 7 – June 1 – @ Detroit – 7:30 PM