The Detroit Red Wings' march to a third straight appearance to a Stanley Cup Final took a step forward as Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom each scored twice and Jimmy Howard made 32 saves in a 6-1 victory in Game 7 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal in front of 17,543 at Jobing.com Arena.
Detroit, which dominated throughout the decisive contest, will face the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in the second round. The start of that series is to be determined.
The Wings got big games from their big guns -- Lidstrom scored twice and added an assist, Datsyuk had Detroit's first two goals, and Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski each had three assists.
Indeed, the Wings' best players were their best players. On this sheet of ice, they were the best players, period.
"That's how it's supposed to be, right?" Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Our big guys were fantastic today. I'm not taking anything away from anybody else on our team, but the big guys really came to play. To be successful at this time of year, that's what you need."
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett agreed that the Wings' stars came up with a big night at the right time.
"From early in the game, their top players came out and dictated the pace, and we had no answer for them," said Tippett, who signed on as coach of the Coyotes late in training camp and led them to a 107-point season, the best in franchise history. "They were relentless. When their top players play like that, their whole group just jumps right in. Hats off to them; they played an unbelievable game.
"The reality is we just got thumped. We got beat."
The Coyotes, who were chosen by many to finish near the bottom of the NHL standings this season, shocked the hockey world by winning 50 games and racking up 107 points to clinch a postseason berth for the first time in eight years. Phoenix forced a seventh game with a 5-2 victory at Detroit on Sunday, but couldn't finish the job on home ice and failed to reach Round 2 -- something the franchise hasn't done since 1987. It was the Red Wings' first Game 7 win on the road in 46 years and their NHL-record 13th overall in 21 tries.
Phoenix was also forced to play the final four games of the series without captain Shane Doan
, who suffered a separated right shoulder in the second period of Game 3. Tippett announced the injury after Tuesday's loss and said such an injury was expected to keep Doan out for a minimum of three weeks.
Nonetheless, the strides this organization made in 2009-10 can't be disputed.
"This is a very special group of players," Tippett said. "The camaraderie and the way these guys interact, it's very rare. There's a lot of things that really went very well for this group this year. It's a good foundation."
The Coyotes escaped the opening period thanks to Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped all 17 shots he faced, including a dazzling pad save on Valtteri Filppula roughly six minutes into the game. Phoenix mustered only six shots in the period.
But Detroit solved Bryzgalov early in the second period when Datsyuk scored on the power play at 2:01. After Martin Hanzal
was whistled for slashing, Lidstrom sent a pass from behind the net that was intended for Johan Franzen. But it went off the latter's skate and straight to Datsyuk, who one-timed it from the slot past Bryzgalov for his fourth goal of the series.
Datsyuk made it 2-0 less than two minutes later when he scored during a 4-on-4 situation. The Russian star, who was hooked by Adrian Aucoin
moments earlier on a breakaway to take away a Phoenix power play, was sent in alone again by Zetterberg and beat Bryzgalov with a forehand.
"He's a really skilled player," Zetterberg said of Datsyuk. "When he has the opportunity to get some open ice, he's real dangerous."
Vernon Fiddler cut the deficit in half with 11:37 left in the second. With the teams at even strength, Fiddler beat Datsyuk on a faceoff and snapped the puck past a stunned Howard to make it 2-1. It was his first goal of the playoffs.
But Lidstrom restored Detroit's two-goal lead when he scored on the power play at 13:52. With two seconds remaining on Aucoin's holding penalty, Lidstrom -- who turns 40 on Wednesday -- took a pass from Zetterberg and fired a slap shot from the high slot past Bryzgalov for his 48th career playoff goal.
"He's that good," Babcock said of Lidstrom, who passed Peter Forsberg on the NHL's all-time postseason scoring list. "Every year if you're playing on Nick's birthday, that means you're in the second round. That's a good thing."
Brad Stuart put the dagger in the Coyotes' back when he scored in the final seconds of the second period. Moments after the Red Wings killed off a two-man advantage that lasted 1:12 and then 48 seconds of a 5-on-4 power play, Stuart came out of the penalty box, beat Mathieu Schneider to a loose puck, came in alone and roofed a wrister over Bryzgalov to make it 4-1. Detroit held a 39-18 shots advantage through 40 minutes.
In all, the Wings had 22 shots in the second period and beat Bryzgalov four times while giving the Coyotes a lesson in coming through when it matters most.
"I know personally I'm going to take a lesson from this series and the Red Wings," said Coyotes forward Lee Stempniak, who joined the club at the trade deadline. "They have experience and they win and they are successful in the playoffs and that's something to strive for. They outplayed us tonight. We weathered the storm early, but we never got anything going and they just kept coming."
Todd Bertuzzi iced the victory when he swatted Filppula's rebound past Bryzgalov for his first goal of the playoffs at 6:35 of the third. Lidstrom made it 6-1 when he took a pass from Rafalski and fired a gorgeous wrist shot from the right circle that beat Bryzgalov high and to the far side, just under the crossbar and inside the post, at 12:14.
It was a rude ending to the best season in the history of the Coyotes' franchise.
"It's hard to put words together when you suffer a loss like that," a disappointed Aucoin said after the Coyotes were saluted by the sellout crowd in the final seconds after watching their season end. "We definitely believed in our room and we can only get better as a team.
"It's not the way you want to go out."
Author: Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent