Danny Cleary scored the game winner and added two assists as the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 6-3 on Wednesday night at the Jobing.com Arena to sweep their opening-round playoff series in what may have been the Coyotes’ last game in the desert.
Patrick Eaves had two goals, including an empty netter, and Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Todd Bertuzzi also scored for the Red Wings, who move on to the Western Conference semifinals and await their next opponent as the road to the Stanley Cup continues.
Taylor Pyatt, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal replied for the Coyotes, who have never won a playoff series in Phoenix and might not get another chance as recent reports out of Canada suggest the team is on the verge of being sold and moved back to Winnipeg, its original home.
Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots for the win, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 34 saves in a losing effort.
Detroit found a way to win despite missing forward Johan Franzen, who was originally injured on a big hit by Doan in Game 2 and was a late scratch with an ankle injury, even though he played in game three on Monday night.
Holmstrom opened the scoring at 3:47 of the first when he took a beautiful feed from Pavel Datsyuk in the slot to score his second goal of the playoffs and give Detroit a 1-0 lead.
With greybeard Mike Modano driving to the net and gaining position in front of Bryzgalov, Datsyuk spun around Phoenix defender Michael Rozsival and made a nifty pass to Holmstrom that added to his already impressive highlight-reel of moves.
Playing in his first playoff game in three years, Modano had an assist on the Holmstrom goal to give him 146 points in 175 career postseason contests.
Phoenix quickly tied the game up at 5:46 at the first when Pyatt threw a puck towards the net that went off Detroit defender Jonathan Ericsson’s skate and trickled in through Howard’s legs for his first goal of the playoffs.
The goal ignited the crowd and soon after cameras picked up prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer, who wants to keep the team in Phoenix, on the arena’s jumbotron wearing a Coyotes jersey and looking delighted to be attending the game.
With the crowd still fired up, Keith Yandle took the puck from the Phoenix end and it eventually got to Doan, who threw a shot from the left faceoff circle that managed to sneak past Howard to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead at 9:46 of the first.
But Detroit replied late in the period to make it 2-2 when Darren Helm made a big hit on Yandle behind the net, grabbed the loose puck, and passed it to Eaves, who was parked in the blue paint in front of Bryzgalov and buried the puck behind the Phoenix netminder at 18:47 for his first of the series.
After a series of nifty passes and with Doan drawing four defenders in front of the net, Phoenix took a 3-2 lead on the power play when Radim Vrbata made a sweet pass to Hanzal, who was sitting on the lip of the crease and banged home the puck into a seemingly empty net at 1:09 of the second for his first career playoff goal.
But Detroit tied the game at 3-3 when, after a series of point-blank shots on the power play that put heavy pressure on Bryzgalov, Kronwall slapped home a rebound in the slot past the Phoenix goalie at 4:49 for his first of the playoffs.
Although no other goals were scored in the second, the frame was still full of plenty of action as there were multiple chances for both teams, including shots that hit the goal posts at each end and a brilliant breakaway save by Howard on a streaking Kyle Turris.
But Cleary broke the stalemate at 13:41 of the third when he threw a puck from a bad angle at the short side of the net that fooled Bryzgalov and put Detroit up 4-3, a soft goal reminiscent of Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup-clincher last season.
Bertuzzi then sealed Phoenix’s fate at when he threw a puck in the crease that bounced off Coyotes defenceman David Schlemko and into the back of the net to put Detroit up 5-3 and quiet the hometown crowd for good.
Eaves added an empty-netter at 19:24 for good measure.
NOTES: Phoenix tough-guy Paul Bissonnette dressed, while Andrew Ebbett sat. Defenceman Derek Morris remains out with an upper-body injury … In addition to missing Franzen, Detroit was also without star forward Henrik Zetterberg. It is unknown when Zetterberg, who injured his knee in the 80th game of the regular season, will return.