GLENDALE, Ariz. – Danny Cleary was all alone in the corner with the puck, and had plenty of time to wait for Ilya Bryzgalov to make a mistake of habit.
Bryzgalov's pad came off the post it was guarding and gave the ex-Phoenix Coyote just enough room to bank in the game-winning goal with 6:19 left in regulation, snapping a 3-3 tie and sending the Red Wings to a 6-3, series-clinching win Wednesday at Jobing.com Arena.
Detroit, which beat the Coyotes in seven games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals last year, has dominated the Coyotes in Arizona, winning five of the six meetings.
The Coyotes were swept in a playoff series for the first time since moving to Phoenix in 1996-97. The franchise has now lost 13 consecutive playoff series, dating back to the 1986-87 Winnipeg Jets.
Todd Bertuzzi added a goal with 4:26 left on a shot that deflected off the skate of Phoenix defenseman David Schlemko to ensure the Red Wings would advance to the Western Conference Semifinals in their 20th straight trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Patrick Eaves added his second goal of the game into an empty net with 35.2 seconds left, but it was Cleary's goal that opened the floodgates.
"I had time in the corner, so I looked around to see what was available," Cleary said. "Bryz is always coming off the post a little, so we always try to shoot from different angles. His knee was kind bent in a 45-degree (angle) there, and I just tried to bank it off him."
Bryzgalov, Phoenix's most valuable player in each of the last two seasons, turned into a liability against the Red Wings – he allowed 17 goals in the four-game series. But there is one in particular that will stick with him this summer.
"It was my mistake. The team deserved a better result tonight," Bryzgalov said. "I'm the reason we lost tonight. I thought overall I played a good game except for this goal. But that's the mistake that cost us the chance to compete for the next game.
"They are a hell of a team. They execute well and they have excellent players."
Tomas Holmstrom and Niklas Kronwall also scored for the Red Wings, while Taylor Pyatt, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal scored for Phoenix in a game that was tied three times and headed to the third period deadlocked.
After spotting the Coyotes a 1-0 lead in Game 1, the Red Wings only trailed one other time in the series, when Doan gave the Coyotes a short-lived 2-1 lead in the first period on Wednesday. But even without Johan Franzen (head, ankle) and Henrik Zetterberg (knee), the Red Wings kept applying pressure and dominated the final period.
"It's funny how it goes," Cleary said. "When an important player like (Zetterberg) is out, it's almost like you play smarter, play harder. You realize you're missing your top offensive guy. Certainly our depth was key for this series. We're going to need that as time goes on.''
For the third straight game, the Red Wings jumped out in front after just 3:47 of play, again using an artful play by Pavel Datsyuk to do it. Skating through the slot on the rush Datsyuk faked pass to Modano before feeding Holmstrom with a blind backhand pass. Holmstrom flipped the puck over Bryzgalov's shoulder for his second goal of the series.
But the Coyotes ramped up their physical game – they were credited with 18 hits in the first period -- and the work paid off with some fortunate bounces and goals.
Pyatt's centering pass for a charging Lee Stempniak caught the skate of Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and went past Jimmy Howard for one goal at 5:46, before Doan took a puck out of the linesman's skates, peeled off the wall and fired a wrist shot that glanced off Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and squeezed between Howard's pads – barely crossing the line.
Phoenix had two even-strength goals – matching its output for the first three games, and the 2-1 lead was their first since Kyle Turris scored less than three minutes into Game 1. But the Coyotes could never find a comfort zone.
Late in the period, Darren Helm put a big hit on defenseman Keith Yandle and wound up taking out Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival as well. With two Coyotes down, Helm skated around the net and found Eaves for the easy tap-in at 18:47.
"They kept coming, and there's just not much room out there against those guys," Yandle said. "Every guy on that team came hard, finished checks and if you turn it over, they have the skill to make you pay for it. If they play this well, they're going to go far."
The teams traded power-play goals early in the second. Hanzal had a wide-open net and buried a Radim Vrbata feed at 1:09 for Phoenix's sixth goal in its last 10 power-play chances. But the Red Wings needed just 20 seconds of Lauri Korpikoski's high-sticking penalty to respond, with Kronwall running down a rebound and scoring high-glove side from the slot at 4:49 to tie the game for a third time.
It stayed that way until Cleary cued up his bank shot to open the floodgates.
"We have a lot of respect for Phoenix," Bertuzzi said. "They work hard, they play hard and they played with everything they had. But it's nice to get this series over with, get back to Detroit and get a little bit of a rest here to get ready for the next round."