DETROIT (AP) -The defending Stanley Cup champions were at home, but the Detroit Red Wings were hardly safe late in the third period.
Dan Cleary's tiebreaking goal with 3 minutes left lifted the Red Wings to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night and into the Western Conference finals for the third straight year and eighth time in 14 seasons.
"When you have role players stepping in and scoring goals, it makes it so much easier," star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Jiri Hudler, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson also scored for the Red Wings, who are seeking their fifth NHL title since 1997.
Before Detroit did it this postseason, Colorado was the most recent team to win at least one series after hoisting the Cup. The Avalanche lost to Detroit 7-0 in the deciding game of the 2002 Western Conference finals.
"Most teams that have won the Stanley Cup don't even get here," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "For us to be in this situation is a real positive, but we have a hungry Chicago team waiting for us."
Detroit will host the Blackhawks in Game 1 on Sunday, matching up the Original Six teams in the playoffs for the first time since the conference finals in 1995.
"It should be fun," Babcock said.
The previous two Cup champions met for the third time in the playoffs since the NHL expanded in 1967, and all three series went 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 won at home against eighth-seeded Anaheim, which knocked off the top-seeded San Jose Sharks in the first round.
Five games were decided by a goal, including Game 2 in triple overtime.
"It was the best series I've been in," Babcock said.
Anaheim's Jonas Hiller had a lot to do with the competitiveness, making 36 saves in the finale after extending the series by winning Game 6.
"It showed a lot of heart for these guys to come back here for Game 7," Hiller said.
Chris Osgood stopped 24 shots for the Red Wings, who couldn't protect a two-goal lead in the second period.
"It was a tough series, probably one of the toughest we've played in a long time," Osgood said.
Cleary set up a matchup with his former team, stuffing the puck past Hiller after Henrik Zetterberg flipped it into the crease.
"Z was in the corner and made a good play, put it on net," Cleary said. "I stayed with it and got it under Hiller."
The Ducks weren't sure the goal should've been allowed.
"(Cleary) just pushed my pad," Hiller said. "He couldn't see the puck."
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle agreed, but said it shouldn't have gotten to that point.
"We would've been better to put the puck in behind and play the grinding game that got us back in the game," he said.
Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry scored for Anaheim, and Bobby Ryan made it 3-all at 7:37 of the third.
The game ended in thrilling fashion after it appeared the Red Wings might win in a rout.
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf was called for two penalties in the first period and Detroit took advantage of the second.
Anaheim failed on an extended 5-on-3 power play in the first period when the game was scoreless.
"That was probably low point of the night for us," Carlyle said. "In that situation, it seemed like we were going in the wrong direction."
At Boston, Scott Walker scored his first NHL playoff goal 18:46 into overtime to send Carolina into the Eastern Conference finals.
Byron Bitz gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 7:42 of the first period, and Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour tied it six minutes later. Sergei Samsonov put the Hurricanes ahead 2-1 at 7:45 of the second period, but Milan Lucic tied it for the Bruins at 6:19 of the third.
Walker scored his first goal in 25 career NHL playoff games on a rebound off a shot by Ray Whitney from the right circle. Tim Thomas made the save but couldn't recover in time to stop Walker from batting the puck out of the air and over him.
Carolina will face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of that series on Wednesday, in the East finals.