Detroit's Stanley Cup Streak Stopped at Two
By Michael Rosenberg
DETROIT, May 18The Colorado Avalanche scored four straight goals tonight for their fourth straight win, this time by a score of 5-2, ending the Detroit Red Wings' hopes for a third straight Stanley Cup title.
One after another, the four consecutive Avalanche goals took a little life out of the Red Wings and Joe Louis Arena. Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Chris Drury and Joe Sakic finalized what had become apparent over the past week: After two years on top, the Red Wings did not have the speed or poise to stop the Avalanche once it overcame losses in the first two games of the series.
The Avalanche won the best-of-seven series, 4-2, to advance to the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Stars. For two years, the Avalanche and Stars have plotted to wrest the conference from the Red Wings, and now one of them will.
"It's just so sad to see it end," Detroit forward Brendan Shanahan said. "I hate to see the Cup going someplace else this year."
Eight days ago, with the Red Wings coming home with a 2-0 series lead, a Dallas-Detroit series seemed imminent. But the Avalanche didn't just learn from the Red Wings, they practically became them overnight. Colorado stopped committing silly infractions, started showing depth and only trailed once in the final four games. The Avalanche outscored the Red Wings 19-7 in Games 3 through 6.
"I don't think it was a single play," Forsberg said. "We got scoring from the third and fourth lines. That's usually their strength. I thought that was the difference."
Forsberg was part of the difference too, especially tonight, when he scored twice. When he opened the scoring, Forsberg stole the puck, then passed to Valeri Kamensky and the two sped toward the goal.
Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios had just a moment to foil the odd-man rush. Chelios faked toward Forsberg, then slid in front of Kamensky, but he made his move too early. Kamensky passed to Forsberg, who beat goalie Chris Osgood for his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Hejduk deflected an Aaron Miller shot past Osgood 4 minutes 12 seconds into the second period, and when Drury scored 93 seconds later, the Red Wings looked doomed.
Detroit did rally with goals from Nicklas Lidstrom and Darren McCarty late in the second period, but all that did was cut the margin to 4-2 and give the crowd one last chance to blow the roof off Joe Louis Arena.
This was the third time in four seasons that hockey's premier rivalry took the postseason stage, and on each occasion the underdog won. In 1996, the Red Wings were coming off the most successful regular season ever, but the Avalanche beat them en route to the Stanley Cup. A year later, Colorado was the league's top team, but Detroit pulled the upset and won the Cup.
Although the Avalanche was the higher-seeded team this season, the two-time defending Cup champion Red Wings were rejuvenated by several late-season additions.
The Red Wings swept Anaheim in the first round, then won the first two games in Denver to increase their postseason winning streak to 11 games. They followed it with the four straight losses.
In a sense, the Red Wings' dynasty ended just as it began three seasons go, with Detroit incapable of scoring a meaningful goal on Patrick Roy.
The Avalanche were helped tremendously by Osgood's weakened right knee, which caused him to missed the series' first four games.
"It kind of put us out of sync," Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman said.
Still, Bowman was gracious afterward, despite the ugliness that marred the last two playoff meetings between these two teams.
"You lose four straight like we did, you can't say the other team was lucky," said Bowman, who must decide if he will retire or try to coach a record ninth Stanley Cup champion.
While the Red Wings have issues to ponder, they are no longer a concern of the Avalanche.
"Tomorrow morning we're going to wake up, and the Red Wings have to be out of our system," Colorado Coach Bob Hartley said.
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