The Detroit Red Wings are no longer the Western Conference's biggest playoff underachievers of recent years - and they might have even found a team to take their place.
Mikael Samuelsson scored two first-period goals, Dominik Hasek posted his 13th career playoff shutout and the visiting Red Wings rolled into the conference finals with three straight victories in their second-round series, beating deflated San Jose last night, 2-0, in Game 6.
Hasek made 28 saves in his first shutout of the spring for the top-seeded Red Wings, who are headed to the conference finals for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2002.
The Red Wings open the next round Friday at home against the Anaheim Ducks.
Detroit had won just one playoff series in the previous three seasons despite winning at least 48 games in each, earning two Presidents' Trophies as the NHL's best regular-season team. But the Red Wings, who finished second overall this season, finally parlayed their veteran experience into playoff success against a young opponent that took another postseason of lumps.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots for the Sharks, but the best regular season in franchise history ended in another collapse after San Jose controlled most of the series' first three games.
The Sharks were up 2-1 in the series and held a one-goal lead in the final minute of Game 4. But they yielded a tying goal in the final minute of regulation, followed by a heartbreaking overtime score - and the next two games weren't close, with Joe Thornton and captain Patrick Marleau failing to spark their club past Detroit's steady forwards and patchwork defense.
Chris Chelios, 45, had assists on Detroit's goals while playing nearly 30 minutes, and fellow defenseman Brett Lebda returned to the Red Wings' lineup after a six-game absence with an ankle injury - just in time to replace Mathieu Schneider, who's out for the postseason with a broken left wrist. *.