- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

Darren Helm scored 3:58 into overtime to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in the Western Conference finals and set up a Stanley Cup Finals rematch with Pittsburgh.

Detroit won the Western Conference finals 4-1. The Red Wings and Penguins, coming off a four-game sweep over Carolina in the East, will open the championship series Saturday night in Detroit.

The series will start nearly a week ahead of schedule because NBC and the NHL didn’t want a long layoff to stunt the excitement about the matchup.

Helm sent off a celebration after fanning on a shot attempt from the edge of the crease and having the puck go in off his skate.

“We squeaked one by him,” Helm said.

Detroit’s Dan Cleary opened the scoring 6:08 into the third period, and Chicago’s Patrick Kane tied it with 7:07 left in regulation with his first goal of the series.

Cristobal Huet, playing for the injured Nikolai Khabibulin, made 44 saves for the Blackhawks. He forced overtime with a spectacular stop from his stomach, lifting his right leg to knock away Johan Franzen’s shot in the closing seconds.

“He played great,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “He is to be commended. The game he played kept us in it.”

Detroit’s Chris Osgood stopped 30 shots.

The Red Wings are matching up with Pittsburgh in what is the NHL’s first Stanley Cup rematch since the Edmonton Oilers beat the New York Islanders in 1984 after losing to them the previous year.

“To have the opportunity against Pittsburgh should be a lot of fun,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “There will be a lot of hype.”

The Red Wings, the first defending champions to get back to the finals since New Jersey in 2001, are trying to become the first team to repeat since the franchise won the Cup in 1997 and 1998.

In the Western Conference finale, both teams were missing key players.

Detroit was without six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom; his replacement, Jonathan Ericsson; MVP finalist Pavel Datsyuk; and four-time Cup-winning forward Kris Draper. In addition to Khabibulin, Chicago faced elimination without star forward Martin Havlat.

The Red Wings looked motivated to get off to a good start.

Detroit had 21 shots in the first period, the most it has had in any period this season, and two power plays but started the second in a scoreless tie.

Chicago failed to take advantage of having an extra skater three times in the second period, but it did outshoot the Red Wings 11-10.

The Blackhawks were playing in their first conference final since losing to Detroit in 1995.

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