Eric Stephens | NHL.com Correspondent
ANAHEIM, Calif. --
Should anybody really be surprised that the last two Stanley Cup champions are going the distance?
The Anaheim Ducks
pushed their Western Conference Semifinal series against Detroit to the limit on Tuesday night with 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings
-- setting up a winner-take-all showdown between the 2007 and 2008 champs Thursday night in Detroit.
"It's exciting," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer
said. "What a great thrill to be playing a great hockey club like that in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I'm looking forward to it."
Anaheim looked tired and worn down in Game 5, a sluggish 4-1 loss to a Red Wings team that was poised to close out an opponent on the road for the ninth consecutive time. But the eighth-seeded Ducks, who bounced top-seeded San Jose in the opening round, reached deep within themselves and did enough to hold off the Wings and extend their season -- at least for two more days.
and Corey Perry
, Anaheim's two big guns on offense, delivered the goals in the second period. Jonas Hiller
, who struggled in the losses in Games 4 and 5, came through with 38 saves, while Niedermayer and Chris Pronger
partnered to lead a strong defensive effort.
It was a determined effort from a group of Ducks who felt wholly embarrassed by their sloppy performance in Game 4 and their listless outing in Game 5.
"You just come out like you want to in a big playoff game," said Niedermayer, who assisted on Getzlaf's power-play goal early in the second period. "We knew we could better than we were in the last two games. There was no question about last game. I think we were tonight."
Hiller allowed only Johan Franzen's
eighth goal of this postseason with 2:25 remaining in regulation. Franzen has 21 goals in 26 games over the last two playoffs.
The Red Wings got 39 shots, including 18 in the final 20 minutes. But they were unable to finish plays in the Anaheim or get to rebounds. Datsyuk had a last-second opportunity with Detroit goalie Chris Osgood
pulled for an extra attacker but Hiller made his final save of the night, robbing him from the slot.
"I think we competed," said Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg
, who has a point in all but one playoff game. "We tried to get pucks to the net and be there for second chances. We just couldn't get more than one puck behind him."
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle played Niedermayer and Pronger together on the blue line and had Francois Beauchemin
and James Wisniewski
together. Pronger, Niedermayer and Wisniewski all logged at least 23 minutes while Beauchemin played 18:16 and Ryan Whitney
logged 16:54 of ice time.
The group kept the amount of point-blank chances for Detroit to a minimum while also killing off three of four Red Wings power plays, including back-to-back chances in the second period.
"Detroit has a very skilled hockey club, and if you don't stay close to your check, they are going to move the puck and move themselves," Carlyle said. "If there is a team that does it better, I'd like to know where it is.
"If you don't stay close to your check, they can make you look awfully foolish. I thought we played fairly neat and tidy."
The Red Wings knew they would face a desperate opponent. They didn't know that they couldn't match that desperation until they fell behind by two goals.
"I thought tonight they were more desperate at the start of the game," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Probably through 40 minutes. Desperation, it doesn't have to be huge, but a little it. You win more puck battles and more puck races. You deflect more people out of the slot. You can kind of sustain pressure. I thought that was the key tonight."
Emotions boiled over as time expired. First, Getzlaf and Detroit's Marian Hossa
traded shots. Soon Niedermayer and Datsyuk were along the boards pulling at each other before dropping their gloves. Across the ice, Perry and Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski
-- who hadn't played in five games because of an undisclosed upper-body injury -- also went at it.
Perry and Getzlaf have dropped their gloves on several occasions this season. Niedermayer, Rafalski, Hossa and Datsyuk aren't known for joining in the fisticuffs.
"There was a lot going on," Niedermayer said, adding his last fight was a long time ago. "I don't know how it all started. Next thing you know, my gloves are off. That doesn't happen too often.
"I took a couple of shots. I didn't even know who it was at first. A couple of punches to the face and after a couple, I figured I'd try a couple myself."
Will there be any carryover for Game 7? Or are the stakes too high to let the emotions spill over?
"We'll see," Red Wings forward Dan Cleary
said. "I felt that some guys took liberties on certain players that aren't known to fight. So we'll see Thursday. We've got to be aggressive on them. We've got to force them to play good defense. We've got to be physical on Niedermayer, Getzlaf, Perry and these guys. You've got to be hard on them, got to hit them. Take away their time and space.
"Raffy doesn't fight. Pav doesn't fight. So we'll see. Niedermayer doesn't fight either."
In the end, Anaheim was just good enough to win.
"We knew we wanted this," Perry said. "We've got a great team in here. Everybody dug down. You could just feel it before the game. Everybody was ready to play and everybody came with that mindset."
Largely quiet for Games 4 and 5, Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf
dropped Detroit's Dan Cleary
behind the Anaheim net and carried the puck all the way into the Red Wings' zone to draw two defenders and get the puck back to Chris Pronger
at the point. Pronger zipped it across ice to Scott Niedermayer
, who sent a one-timer toward the net, where Getzlaf jammed in a rebound before Detroit goalie Chris Osgood
could get to it.
Hard to consider Ducks sniper Corey Perry
an unsung player, but the feisty right wing not only went to the ice to break up a potential scoring play by crashing Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula
, but Perry pulled himself out of the Anaheim net and got up ice quickly enough to get in position to deflect Getzlaf's wrist shot past a surprised Osgood.
Anaheim defenseman Ryan Whitney
did a great job of foiling a 2-on-1 rush the Red Wings had working between Cleary and Darren Helm
. As Helm held the puck and faked a shot to draw Whitney to the ice, the big Ducks rearguard still managed to knock the puck off Helm's stick as he attempted a toe-drag move.
Amazingly, Anaheim has been outshot in any of its 12 playoff games. But the Ducks did close the wide gap between them and the Red Wings in the series. Detroit had been outshooting Anaheim by an average of 17 shots through the first five games, but its advantage was just 39-28 in Game 6. The smallest margin the Ducks had been outshot previously was five against San Jose in Games 3 and 6 of the first round.
It will be interesting to see if there are any repercussions for what transpired after the final horn sounded, which featured a fight between Anaheim captain Scott Niedermayer
and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk
. Ryan Getzlaf
also mixed things up with Red Wings forward Marian Hossa