Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Wings rounding into post-season form

Categories: DET vs. PHO

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After stumbling down the stretch and finishing 10-9-4 over their last 23 games, the Central Division-leading Wings quickly returned to their winning ways once the post-season got underway.   (Christian Petersen/Getty Images) After stumbling down the stretch and finishing 10-9-4 over their last 23 games, the Central Division-leading Wings quickly returned to their winning ways once the post-season got underway. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Dan Cleary waited a long time to make his point against the Phoenix Coyotes, but when he finally did, it put the final nails into Phoenix's coffin.

Cleary assisted on Niklas Kronwall's game-tying goal, then scored the winner with 6:19 left in the third period, for his first playoff points as Detroit rallied for a 6-3 Game 4 victory Wednesday at Jobing.com Arena. The Wings swept the Coyotes in their Western Conference quarter-final series.

After stumbling down the stretch and finishing 10-9-4 over their last 23 games, the Central Division-leading Wings quickly returned to their winning ways once the post-season got underway.

"We talk about there's no switch, but I think we step up at certain times in big games and big situations," Cleary said. "Everyone loves playoff time, especially in this locker room. It's the most important time, the most fun time."

Taking the blame

Allowing Cleary to bank in the winner between his pad and the goal post on a sharp-angled shot was the final straw in what was a disappointing series for Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. He allowed at least four goals in each game and shouldered the blame for the sweep, calling himself "the goat" of the series.

"It was a mistake that killed my team," Bryzgalov said. "It is my fault."

Detroit has won 57 successive playoff games when scoring four or more goals.

Getting it done

The Wings are now 18-1 all-time when leading a series 3-0 and this was the 14th time they've swept a series. Last season, the Wings also beat the Coyotes in the opening playoff round, but needed seven games to do so.

"I kind of remember last year," Wings centre Pavel Datsyuk said. "It takes lots of time, lots of travel, takes our energy away.''

Worn down from the grind last spring, the Wings lost in five games to San Jose in the second round.

"We wanted to get it taken care of and be able to move on," Cleary said.

Shaking it up

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett sought to change his club's look in Game 4. He moved creative young centre Kyle Turris up to the top line with Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, and inserted bruising forward Paul Bissonnette to further increase Phoenix's physical presence, all to no avail.

"Losing four straight, it's almost embarrassing," Coyotes captain Doan said. "We needed a lot more."

Lucky 13

In searching for a reason behind Detroit's four-game sweep, look no further than the club's depth.

Minus regular-season scoring leader Henrik Zetterberg due to a sprained left knee, 13 different Red Wings scored goals during series, with Cleary, Kronwall, Todd Bertuzzi and Patrick Eaves notching their first tallies of the series in the Game 4 triumph. Eaves scored twice.

"It's definitely that time of year when you need contribution from everyone," Detroit forward Drew Miller said. "Having Z out of the lineup, different guys need to step up and I think as a whole everyone is preparing to play a little harder in the playoffs.

"I think all year the third and fourth lines, we work hard and try to generate offensive zone presence and take the body. The playoffs, now we're taking it to the next level and chipping in offensively. It's just a bonus for the team."

Mo-Mentum?


Talk about a deep bench. Veteran centre and Hall-of-Famer in waiting Mike Modano of Livonia, Mich., the all-time leading U.S.-born scorer in NHL history, drew into the Detroit lineup for Johan Franzen, unable to go due to what is believed to be a left leg injury.

The time off after sweeping will allow the Wings' injured -- Franzen and Zetterberg -- to heal before the second round starts.

"We're going to get a few days here before the next series, and I think it's big for us to get some guys back," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We really wanted to win to get those guys a few days rest."

Gone forever?

Their season officially over, the future of the Coyotes and their much-speculated move to Winnipeg will move to the front burner.

"It's a nice place to visit, that's for sure," Lidstrom said of Phoenix. "I don't know what's going to happen next year for them, but it's always enjoyable coming here. It's always fun."

Potential owner Matthew Hulsizer attended Game 4 and Glendale city officials are to meet Thursday with members of the Goldwater Institute, who are opposed to the planned taxpayer subsidy to aid Hulsizer's purchase of the franchise.

The Phoenix players have done their best to try to deflect talk of what lay ahead of the franchise so that it wouldn't become a distraction.

"There's not a whole lot of talk about it," Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt said. "There's more people, friends and family, that talk about it more than just ourselves in this locker room."

Tippett described the uncertain around ownership of the team as "a competitive disadvantage."

"I think we could win with stable ownership in place," he said.