Work in Sports
DENVER (Ticker) -- Their stars were better, their team deeper and their coach suddenly superior.
Behind superstars Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, the Colorado Avalanche made quick work of the archrival Detroit Red Wings, advancing to the Western Conference finals with a 4-2 victory.
Forsberg, Sakic and role players Stephane Yelle and Shjon Podein scored for Colorado, which will meet defending Stanley Cup champion Dallas or San Jose in the conference finals.
"We had a tough one last year against Dallas," Forsberg said. "Whoever we play, San Jose or Dallas, we have to be ready. We have a lot of guys who are really hungry this year, and I think it shows."
The Avalanche ended the much-anticipated series between the NHL powers in five games, bouncing the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup winners from the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.
"We knew it was going to be a tougher series (than last year)," Sakic said. "Other people might have thought different, but every step you go, it gets tougher. We're happy it was only five games."
"I have the same feeling this year as I did when we lost in '96," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood said. "They're a team we don't like losing to and when you lose 4-1, it makes it that much worse."
Forsberg finished the series with six points, two more than Red Wings All-Stars Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan combined. Roy stopped 150 of 160 shots opposite an overmatched Osgood.
"Each game was close," said Yzerman, whose team was outscored in the series, 13-8. "The difference was they were able to put the puck in the net. Nobody really scored a ton, well maybe Forsberg. But our top guys didn't. We just didn't put the puck in the net."
"I believe in our personel, but it's tough to think about that right now," Detroit defenseman Larry Murphy added. "You're so upset with the situation and what's transpired. I feel we've got a good hockey club, but we didn't show up in this series."
Adam Deadmarsh ended the series with five points and 1999 Calder Trophy winner Chris Drury added six for the Avalanche, dwarfing the production of Detroit's supporting cast.
"We want to get on a roll," Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. "We feel that with the depth and the talent that we have, if we can work all our lines in, it's like an avalanche."
Hartley also outshined the legendary Scotty Bowman, becoming the first coach to eliminate the eight-time Stanley Cup winner from a best-of-seven series in consecutive seasons.
Even without All-Star defenseman Ray Bourque, the Avalanche recorded their ninth straight home win and improved to 22-3-1 since March 20.
"I thought they played their best game tonight," said Osgood, who stopped 21 shots. "They were real good."
Just eight seconds after Norris Trophy candidate Nicklas Lidstrom was penalized for tripping, Sakic opened the scoring 2:46 into the second period, wristing a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle through Osgood's pads.
Yelle later hit Vyacheslav Kozlov behind Detroit's net, picked up a rebound in the crease left by Osgood and banged in his first playoff goal for a 2-0 lead midway through the second.
"They had the killer instinct and they put us away," Osgood said. "We kind of were waiting to see what happened. We never came out and took it to them."
The Wings showed resiliency later in the period as Murphy scored a shorthanded goal to halve the deficit.
"In the third period, we were trying to catch up," Bowman said. "We caught a break in the second when we scored the shorthanded goal. There was still a lot of time left, but we could never get close enough to get that tying goal. There was no momentum shift."
Forsberg restored the two-goal lead 4:40 into the third, blistering a slap shot by Osgood while driving to the high slot. It was the fourth goal of the series for Forsberg, who recorded at least one point in every game.
"Detroit gave it a little spirit," Roy said. "They had some momentum and a chance to score some shorthanded goals, but Peter scored a big goal for us, just like Podein did."
Detroit bounced back again 93 seconds later when Shanahan scored for the second time in the series, slapping a bouncing puck past Roy from the high slot.
Shanahan scored on a line with Yzerman and Darren McCarty, who like Shanahan, was demoted to the fourth unit to start the game.
One of the Red Wings' stars got them within a goal, but low-scoring defenseman Eric Messier hustled behind Detroit's net to negate an icing call and set up a goal by Podein, who roofed another rebound by Osgood.
"That's the kind of second effort and desperate hockey that wins hockey games," Podein said. "I think that was a great example of what Eric Messier brings to this team."
Podein became the Avalanche's 12th different goal-scorer, the most of any team remaining in the postseason.