Nicklas Lidstrom can celebrate his 40th birthday Wednesday and still wish for the chance at a fifth Stanley Cup victory.
The veteran defenceman helped the Detroit Red Wings advance to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, scoring twice and adding an assist in a 6-1 drubbing of Phoenix on Tuesday night.
"Their top players came out and dictated the pace and we had no answers. They were relentless," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. "They turned it up another level that we couldn't get to."
The Red Wings, who earned their first Game 7 victory on the road since 1964, will face the San Jose Sharks in a NHL Western Conference semifinal. Detroit won the season series 3-0-1.
Lidstrom, one of 22 Red Wings with Game 7 experience, furthered his legendary status once more at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday.
The future Hall of Famer led Detroit to its third win in the series at Phoenix, setting up the first of two Pavel Datsyuk goals and later scoring twice on the power play.
"If you're going to go deep into the playoffs you have to be able to play well on the road and we've been able to do that in this series," Lidstrom said. "They've been a tough opponent. It took us seven games."
Datsyuk gets hot
Datsyuk set the tone, scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the series in a span of one minute 41 seconds as the visitors beat Ilya Bryzgalov four times on 22 shots in the second period to put the game away.
"They played unbelievable," Bryzgalov said. "You can say maybe we didn't play good enough, maybe we had some mistakes. It's tough to say, but they were unreal tonight."
Datsyuk, the two-time Selke Award winner as the league's top defensive forward, also shone in the Detroit zone. With the Coyotes trailing 3-1 in the second period and enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage, he blocked a shot by former Red Wing Mathieu Schneider and seconds later watched teammate Niklas Kronwall follow suit.
"That's the way it's supposed to be, right?" Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "The big guys were fantastic tonight."
Brad Stuart, Todd Bertuzzi and Lidstrom rounded out the scoring for Detroit, a Cup finalist the past two seasons which outshot Phoenix 50-33 and improved its record to 13-8 in Game 7s. Brian Rafalski and Henrik Zetterberg collected three assists apiece, with Valtteri Filppula adding a pair.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk combined for 11 goals and 18 points in the series.
Vernon Fiddler was the only Coyote to beat NHL rookie of the year nominee Jimmy Howard, who finished with 32 saves in the Detroit net to deny Phoenix its first playoff series win in six attempts since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.
Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who led the team with 55 points in the regular season, was sorely missed on Tuesday. He watched in street clothes after suffering a Grade 3 shoulder separation in Game 3, said Tippett.
Early in Game 7, it appeared as though Bryzgalov would offset the loss of Doan and help his team avoid a 12th consecutive playoff series defeat.
The six-foot-three Russian, who entered Tuesday's game with a .962 save percentage in the first period of the series, stopped all 17 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.
But Bryzgalov, who turned in a stalwart performance in Phoenix's Game 6 triumph, couldn't deny a Detroit power play that converted eight of 33 chances in the series. Phoenix, on the other hand, was 0-for-23 in Games 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7.
It was an anticlimactic ending for a team that opened its training camp without an owner or coach.
The Coyotes still are owned by the NHL, which bought the team out of bankruptcy and is trying to work out a sale to a group headed by Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf.
After beginning the season playing in a mostly empty arena, the Coyotes kept winning, setting a franchise record for victories (50) and points (107) under Tippett.
Fiddler's unassisted goal, on a faceoff with Datsyuk, gave Phoenix a little life. But Lidstrom's slapshot from in front made it 3-1.
The Coyotes failed to get a shot off during their two-man advantage, and Stuart scored seconds after coming out of the penalty box to make it 4-1 just five seconds before the second period ended.
"I think that was kind of the dagger for them," Stuart said.