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RED WINGS TOP BLUES IN THRILLER

Late into Thursday night, they battled.

And battled. And battled.The underdog St. Louis Blues, the aging warriors of coach Mike Keenan. And the favored Detroit Red Wings, the National Hockey League's glamour team, coached by Keenan's mentor Scotty Bowman.

A Stanley Cup playoff classic. Scoreless in regulation time. Sudden death overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Last shot wins.

And Steve Yzerman got the last shot, beating Jon Casey at 1 minute 15 seconds of the second overtime to propel the Wings to a 1-0 victory and into the final four of the playoffs.

Wayne Gretzky lost the puck in the neutral zone and Yzerman took off. He ripped a long slap shot that beat Casey high. It was his eighth goal of the playoffs.

Joe Louis Arena erupted with about 20,000 cheering wildly as the team celebrated and then went through the traditional postgame handshakes.

Game 1 of the NHL semifinal series will be Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche in Detroit.

A Blues victory would have ranked as arguably the biggest upset in Stanley Cup playoff history. The Blues finished 51 points behind the Red Wings in the regular season. No team has finished so far behind a team in the regular season and beaten it in the playoffs.

The Red Wings were battling the Blues and the ghosts. They've gone without a Stanley Cup since 1955, and have had several celebrated playoff misfires in recent years.

With so much at stake, the game was a classic. From start to finish. Referee Bill McCreary put away his whistle 5 minutes 28 seconds into the second period and let the teams play.

The aging Blues gave it all they had. The Red Wings answered questions about their character and grit. The Red Wings threw all they had at Casey. Stiff neck and all, Casey was at the bat.

Casey was brilliant. At the other end, Chris Osgood was just as good. Scoreless into overtime.

Through one overtime, the Red Wings had outshot the Blues 38-29. Detroit finished with a 40-29 edge in shots.

The Blues made like the Red Wings early in the second period and took over the play. Yuri Khmylev, Brian Noonan and Peter Zezel had the most dangerous scoring chances.