DETROIT -- The dream rematch is set.
The Detroit Red Wings will defend their Stanley Cup title against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a dream final series.
Thanks to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks last night, the Wings claimed the Western Conference final series in five games.
It earns them a date with Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Penguins, who Detroit beat in six games in last year's final.
"They're going to be motivated," said Wings defenceman Brad Stuart. "They're going to be hungry. I'm sure they don't want to experience what they experienced last year. We've got to be ready for a determined team."
It's the first time the NHL has had the same two teams reach the final since the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders faced off for the crown back in 1983 and 1984.
Darren Helm was the Motown hero last night with the game-winning goal, banging home a loose puck in the crease a few minutes into the extra period.
"Our line was doing a good job of keeping the puck in and putting a lot of pressure on them. I just saw it sitting there and got a good whack on it, just made sure it went in," said the rookie winger who spent the bulk of the season in the minors.
"I try to pride myself on being a big player in playoffs."
He wasn't alone in that capacity for the Wings, who will look to claim their fifth title in 12 years in the series that starts Saturday night in Detroit.
Goaltender Chris Osgood made 30 saves in a fantastic goaltender's duel, and the club's defence corps -- notably Stuart, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall, who all skated nearly 30 minutes -- were heavily counted on with another blueliner joining the injured brigade.
Just like the previous game, the Red Wings were without centres Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper as well as defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, but they also lost towering defenceman Jonathan Ericsson, who was rushed to hospital for an emergency appendectomy in the afternoon.
"Our defence stepped up to the bell and answered it," said winger Kirk Maltby. "These last two games being short, most teams can do it when you lose a couple of guys like me, but when you're losing some superstar players, it's hard. We're graced with depth, but guys really stepped up and did a great job."
Not that the Blackhawks were going to feel sorry for their counterparts. They were playing without No.-1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and top point producer Martin Havlat.
It sure didn't effect the entertainment value for the sellout crowd of 20,066 at the Joe Louis Arena, thanks to great goaltending which kept the game scoreless through two periods.
Chicago's Cristobal Huet, who was pulled from the pipes in the previous outing, was called to arms from the drop of the puck, and came through with flying colours in a 21-save opening period performance, and stopped 44 on the night.
"I knew he'd bounce back," Osgood said of his counterpart. "He kind of got his feet wet in that game and hadn't played for a while. I knew he was going to come back with a big effort, and I knew I had to match him."
Detroit's Dan Cleary and Chicago's Patrick Kane traded third-period goals to force the overtime, although the extra period wasn't a sure thing until Huet came up with a dandy in the final seconds.
With just 17 seconds remaining on the clock, Huet was prone on the ice during a scramble and Johan Franzen was aiming at an open net. However, Huet lifted his leg and just got a piece of the puck.
But he couldn't come up with the last one, and the Blackhawks incredible turnaround season finally came to an end.
"We should all be proud of the year we had. It was a fun year and a great group to work with. These kids have been great all year long and matured, and developed," said head coach Joel Quenneville. "We got to find out what playoff hockey is all about. We went up against the best and the lesson you can learn is you don't just win the Cup and think that you're the best team. You've got to go prove it."