Henrik Zetterberg took a few well-deserved deep breaths before he packed his bags in the Detroit Red Wings' dressing room.
After seven games, four overtimes, three trips to California, countless momentum swings and a few frantic minutes at the close of Game 7, the Red Wings finally finished off Anaheim.
Their captain scored an early goal and made a late mistake, but the Wings survived to earn a second-round series much closer to home.
Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and an assist, and the Red Wings eliminated the Ducks with a 3-2 victory Sunday night.
Justin Abdelkader scored a short-handed goal and Jimmy Howard made 31 saves as the seventh-seeded Red Wings won three of the first-round series' final four games to oust the Ducks, who had the NHL's third-best record in the regular season.
For the first time in the series, the Red Wings didn't even need overtime to win. They largely dominated the anti-climactic clincher — until Zetterberg's delay-of-game penalty allowed Anaheim to get within one goal.
"We did a great job getting off to a good start, and then we protected it there at the end," said Zetterberg, who scored three goals in the series' final two games after getting blanked in the first five. "A lot of us have been in tough situations like this before, so we knew how to play this type of game."
Detroit faces top-seeded Chicago in the second round, and the Red Wings already are relishing the prospect of shorter flights during their final postseason in the Western Conference.
Zetterberg scored just 1:49 in, and the Stanley Cup-winning captain finished with seven points in the series' final three games after just one assist in the first four.
But Zetterberg also shot the puck over the glass accidentally in the waning minutes, and Francois Beauchemin put a power-play goal off Jonathan Ericsson's skate in front of Howard with 3:17 to play.
"It was not the best move by me, so it was tough to sit in the box," Zetterberg said. "But we still had a one-goal lead, and we've been in these situations so many times before."
Anaheim never really got close to tying it, and the Red Wings wrapped up a Game 7 victory on the road for just the third time in the franchise's lengthy history. Detroit is in the second round for the sixth time in seven seasons, but the Wings will have to recharge after surviving this memorable matchup.
"It had to go down as one of the best series in the last short while, at least," Abdelkader said. "It was fun to play in, back-and-forth, tightly checked. Both teams played well and played hard."
The Motor City's team even prevented the first Freeway Faceoff in NHL playoff history. Anaheim would have faced Los Angeles in the second round, the first postseason matchup for Southern California's two teams.
Emerson Etem scored and Jonas Hiller stopped 29 shots for the Ducks, who couldn't capitalize on home ice and failed in their second chance to close out their first playoff series victory since 2009. Another slow start doomed Anaheim, which fell behind 2-1 late in the first period on Abdelkader's goal.
"We felt we had a good thing going," Hiller said. "I think everybody thought we were going to go a long way, but it seemed like we didn't find that extra step for the playoffs. Detroit was just a little better than us. It's depressing. It makes you feel sad."
Anaheim had the best winning percentage in franchise history while claiming only its second Pacific Division title during the lockout-shortened season. The defeat also is a sadly familiar playoff disappointment for Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who never got the Washington Capitals past the second round after four standout regular seasons with his previous club.
The loss also could be the final NHL game for Teemu Selanne, the 42-year-old franchise scoring leader who flirts with retirement every summer. The Finnish Flash said he'll take his customary several weeks before deciding his future.
"It's very disappointing," Selanne said. "We had two chances to close the series, but couldn't. ... As a group, we have to learn something from this. The playoffs are so much fun. We were looking forward to going forward and enjoying this a whole lot more."
Selanne didn't score a goal in the series' final six games — but Corey Perry, the Ducks' former 50-goal scorer and NHL MVP, didn't score a goal in the entire series despite 24 shots.
"It's not something you think is going to happen," Perry said. "You get the job done throughout the year, but it just didn't seem to be there in this series."
The clubs alternated victories until the final two games of the series, with the Ducks taking three straight one-game leads before Detroit caught them. The Wings earned a third trip to California with an overtime win in Game 6 on Friday night — and they made it count with their fourth win in six appearances at Honda Center this season.
Detroit took the lead for good when Abdelkader stole Beauchemin's pass near the blue line during a power play late in the first period, beating Hiller on a breakaway for his first goal since returning from a two-game suspension.
Filppula put the Wings up 3-1 when he jumped on a loose puck and punched a backhand through Beauchemin's legs for his first goal of the postseason.
NOTES: Anaheim D Toni Lydman missed his fourth straight game since getting hit in the head by Abdelkader, who served a two-game suspension and returned for Game 6. ... The Red Wings scratched C Cory Emmerton for the first time in the series and activated RW Patrick Eaves, who sat out Game 6. D Carlo Colaiacovo stayed in the lineup for the second straight game. ... Anaheim's only previous Game 7 at Honda Center was in 1997, when the Ducks beat Phoenix for the franchise's first playoff series victory. Selanne was in his first full season with the club.