GLENDALE, Ariz. – Danny Cleary shot from behind the post, squeezing the puck through a hole seemingly no wider than a skate blade. Todd Bertuzzi muscled an opponent and the puck to the front of the crease, getting a fortunate bounce to find the net.
Two goals in two minutes and the Detroit Red Wings were headed into the next round, the Phoenix Coyotes toward an uncertain future.
Detroit counterpunched Phoenix’s best shot through two periods and dominated with a flurry in the third, sweeping the Coyotes out of the playoffs and possibly out of the desert with a 6-3 victory Wednesday night.
“We knew they were going to come out and play with their best effort and I thought they did, but we really wanted to win tonight,” Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
So did Phoenix. With the ownership situation still brewing at two years and counting, the Coyotes wanted to go out as winners in what could be their last game in the desert.
They just couldn’t keep up as Detroit sent line after line at them like a swarm of bees.
Detroit didn’t have leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg at all in the series and still dominated Phoenix, scoring at least four goals in each game. The Red Wings had 13 players score a goal and 16 notch a point in the series.
Detroit won Game 3 on four quick-hitting goals during a whiteout at Jobing.com Arena and used its depth to wear down Phoenix in a Game 4 that was more of a dusting of white, but just as juiced.
Tomas Holmstrom, Patrick Eaves and Niklas Kronwall scored in the goal-trading first two periods, then Cleary squeezed a deflating score between goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s skate and the post with 6:19 left in the game. Bertuzzi made it a two-goal lead by knocking a shot off Coyotes defenceman David Schlemko’s skate 1:53 later, and Eaves sealed the sweep with his second goal on an empty net.
The everybody-contributes effort earned the Red Wings a dominating series win over a team that took them to seven games last season, not to mention plenty of time to relax and recuperate before the next round.
“It was a good series for us,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Any time you can win four straight, obviously, it’s a positive thing.”
Playing in front of potential owner Michael Hulsizer, who talked with fans outside before the game and sat in the stands during it, the Coyotes kept up with Detroit’s multitude of scoring lines on goals from Taylor Pyatt, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal.
Phoenix had no answer for the Red Wings in the third period, though, swept out of the playoffs for the first time since 1987, nine years before the franchise moved from Winnipeg. The Coyotes saluted the crowd at centre ice after the game as most of the fans stuck around, but now head into the off-season not knowing if they’ll ever play in Glendale again.
“The talking about moving and this and that, the frustrating thing is stable ownership gives you an atmosphere where you feel you can be successful,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We have scratched and clawed and I give our group a ton of credit because they dealt with it for two years.”
Pavel Datsyuk was the cog for Detroit in the first two games, accounting for two goals and five assists on Detroit’s eight scores. The Red Wings had four players score in Game 3 in the desert, all coming within the first three minutes of each period.
Detroit got a little of both in Game 4: Holmstrom scored his second of the series 3:37 into the game on a no-look pass from Datsyuk.
This time, the Coyotes responded quickly instead of waiting until the game was out of hand.
Pyatt tied it less than two minutes after Holmstrom’s goal when his pass across the crease caromed off the skate of Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson past goalie Jimmy Howard, who had no chance.
It went back and forth from there.
Doan put the Coyotes up in the series for the first time since early in Game 1 midway through the first, wristing a shot from the right circle that nicked Lidstrom’s skate and squeezed through Howard’s pads over the line, almost in slow motion.
Detroit finished off the wild first period on a mishit one-timer by Eaves that still went in after two Coyotes got knocked to the ice behind the goal.
Phoenix got the early period goal in the second, scoring on a power play 1:09 in, when Radim Vrbata hit Hanzal for an easy goal with Howard on the other side of the crease.
Again, the Red Wings answered, with Kronwall punching in a rebound on a power play 3 1/2 minutes later.
“We didn’t lose our composure,” Bertuzzi said. “They came at us a couple times and got some big goals, but I thought we really stayed with it.”
That set up the final period and the Red Wings amped up the pressure midway through with a particularly long shift that left the Coyotes tired.
Detroit took advantage a short time later, with Cleary scoring his first goal of the series. Bertuzzi got his first of the series by squeezing the puck from behind the net off Schlemko, and Eaves sealed the sweep in the closing seconds, giving the dejected Coyotes a deflating finish to another adversity-filled season.
“I’ve never been swept four straight, ever. That’s embarrassing,” Doan said. “It’s frustrating when you know you’re better and we didn’t show it.”
NOTES: Hanzal’s goal was his first in 11 career playoff games. … Coyotes D Derek Morris missed the entire series with a lower-body injury. … Detroit RW Johan Franzen, who had his face bloodied by Doan in Game 2, didn’t play after skating in warmups.