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Wings clip Hawks to take opener

TWO goals from Dan Cleary helped the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday in the opening game of the National Hockey League's Western Conference finals.

Cleary, who scored the winning goal in the Red Wings' semifinal series victory over the Anaheim Ducks, scored in the first and third periods.

Mikael Samuelsson broke a 2-2 tie 7:31 into the third period and Cleary added his second goal of the game less than 90 seconds later for Detroit. Henrik Zetterberg added an empty net goal in the final minute to bring the score to 5-2.

After a taxing seven-game series against Anaheim, the Red Wings came out sluggish in Detroit, but Cleary's first goal, a wristshot that beat Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin's outstretched glove, helped put the team back on track, Detroit coach Mike Babcock told reporters.

"His skill has just gotten better and better for us. He is a big heavy body, he can score playoff goals, and kill penalties and play on the powerplay and do whatever you need him to do," said Babcock.

Cleary's second goal, which gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead late in the game, came from a deflected pass, but fortune played little part in the Red Wings' win.

Their defenders all but shut down the Blackhawks' top scorers, with Patrick Kane unable to register a shot on goal.

The Blackhawks' goals came from Adam Burish who scored the opener in the first period, and Kris Versteeg on a powerplay in the third.

Johan Franzen scored his team-leading ninth of the playoffs with a wrap-around goal to take Detroit to a 2-1 lead after two periods. Detroit's Chris Osgood made 30 saves, and Khabibulin stopped 38 shots.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks' young squad would need a lift to tackle the more experienced Red Wings.

"We know that we got a lesson today that we've got to be better," he said.

Detroit won its first four encounters with Chicago this season, but conceded back-to-back losses in April when it had little to play for.

Game 2 is in Detroit tomorrow.

In the Eastern Conference, Carolina was traveling to Pittsburgh today.


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