by: Marc Valeri
Daniel Cleary scored twice, against the team that drafted him, en route to a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Cleary’s second marker came midway through the third on a absolutely sexy re-direct from Johan Franzen. With Zetterberg also crashing the net, Detroit’s offense once again proved to be too much too fast.
The go-ahead goal, courtesy of Mikael Samuelsson, came just 1:27 before Cleary’s.
Chris Osgood, the team’s supposed ‘question mark’ heading into the 2009 playoffs, made 30 saves for the defending Stanley Cup champions, while counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin turned aside 38 shots in the loss.
Adam Burish gave the ‘Hawks a 1-0 lead early in the first on a poorly-played puck by Ozzie, but the tables turned when Cleary scored only a few minutes later, followed by Franzen to put Detroit up 2-1. The Mule has now scored 20 goals in his last 22 games, and 22 in his 27 career playoff games. Unbelieveable!
Chicago, playing in its first conference final since 1995 against a team in its third straight, was very competitive with the Red Wings until Detroit broke it open in the final period.
The fourth-seeded Blackhawks fell behind in each of its six games the previous round against Vancouver, but found out that it is not as easy to rally against the second-seeded and playoff-tested Red Wings.
Detroit improved to 7-0 when leading after two periods.
Game 2 goes Tuesday night at the Joe.