The Colorado Avalanche are headed to the Stanley Cup finals. The Detroit Red Wings are headed home - again.
The Red Wings won more games this year than any team in NHL history. But now it is a lost season.
For all their victories, and all the octopuses thrown on the ice, their season ended Wednesday night in a blizzard of frayed white pom-poms at McNichols Arena.
“I had goose bumps at the end,” Colorado goaltender Patrick Roy said. “I couldn’t concentrate.”
The Avalanche won 4-1, ending the Western Conference finals in six games and advancing to the championship round for the first time, and in their first season since leaving Quebec.
“This is my fourth time going to the big dance,” said Roy, who won two titles with the Montreal Canadiens. “There was no doubt in my mind we had the team. I’m playing with a great team and a great defense.”
It marked the second straight season the Red Wings were denied the Cup after winning the regular-season championship. Last year, they were swept in the Stanley Cup finals by the New Jersey Devils.
This year, they set an NHL record with 62 victories and were heavy favorites, but barely made it to the conference finals. Detroit hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1955 - the NHL’s longest drought.
The crowd stood for the final 2 minutes, gave a deafening ovation the final minute and stayed in the arena long after the conference trophy was presented to Joe Sakic, the team captain who had two goals and an assist.
“It feels great,” Sakic said. “The building was electric tonight.”
The outcome sends the Avalanche into the finals against the winner of the Pittsburgh-Florida series. The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference finals 3-2 with Game 6 in Miami tonight.
The Stanley Cup finals begin Tuesday in Denver.
“We couldn’t beat all the elements,” Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said. “Sakic was one. He has been in a zone. We had guys beat up. The second period really hurt us.
“We lost to a very good team. They went neck-and-neck with us for two years, and they have a goaltender playing (well), like Patrick Roy is.”
Roy, winning his sixth straight after a loss in the postseason this year, had 23 saves.
Also scoring for Colorado were Mike Ricci and Peter Forsberg. Paul Coffey scored for Detroit in the first period to make it 1-1 before the Avalanche struck for three goals in the second period.
The Colorado franchise played its first 16 seasons as the Quebec Nordiques before moving to Denver last spring.
The Red Wings fought off elimination in three previous games, two against St. Louis in the second round. After losing 13 games during the regular season, the Red Wings lost nine in the playoffs.
Sakic, the leading scorer in the playoffs, recorded his 16th and 17th goals - leaving him two shy of the NHL playoff record shared by Philadelphia’s Reggie Leach and Edmonton’s Jari Kurri - to give Colorado a 1-0 lead in the first period and a 2-1 advantage in the second.
Avalanche coach Marc Crawford said Detroit’s defense “really tried to find Joe Sakic, but he was invisible. He disappeared and then appeared again.”
Of Sakic’s first goal, Crawford said, “I think they were all wondering where he came from.”
Each team had power-play opportunities early in the first period. Roy, nearly caught out of position, made a lunging stop of a shot by Vyacheslav Kozlov to help kill off Detroit’s power play. Chris Osgood turned away a shot from the slot by Sandis Ozolinsh during a subsequent 5-on-4 opportunity by Colorado.
Sakic put Colorado ahead at 11:57, taking a pass from Adam Deadmarsh and scoring from the right circle. Seconds later, Detroit nearly tied it, but Roy deflected Doug Brown’s shot on a breakaway.
At 14:07, Colorado’s Claude Lemieux was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind, which carries an automatic game misconduct, after sending Kris Draper head-first into the boards. Coffey produced a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal from just inside the blue line at 15:36, his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Detroit, which won Game 5, was bidding to become the 14th team to rebound from a 3-1 deficit to win a series since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1939.
Avalanche 4, Red Wings 1
Detroit 1 0 0 - 1
Colorado 1 3 0 - 4
First period-1, Colorado, Sakic 16 (Deadmarsh, Corbet), 11:57. 2, Detroit, Coffey 5 (Fetisov), 15:36 (pp). Second period-3, Colorado, Sakic 17 (Kamensky, Krupp), 5:55 (pp). 4, Colorado, Ricci 5 (Sakic, Ozolinsh), 7:51 (pp). 5, Colorado, Forsberg 7, 16:49. Third period-None.
Shots on goal-Detroit 13-4-7-24. Colorado 7-10-5-22.Power-play opp.-Detroit 1 of 6; Colorado 2 of 6.Goalies-Detroit, Osgood 8-7 (22 shots-18 saves). Colorado, Roy 12-6 (24-23).A-16,061 (16,061).