|Chris Osgood stopped 28 shots en route to his 10th playoff win this season, his 55th overall, while playing in his 100th career postseason game. His Red Wings disposed of the Dallas Stars, 4-1 and earned a meeting with Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Finals.
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For the third straight series in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings
put it away on the road. Once again, they did it in convincing fashion.
The Wings held a 3-0 lead on the Dallas Stars before Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals was even 20 minutes old, and they went on to a 4-1 victory Monday night behind 28 saves from Chris Osgood.
In the opening round, Osgood blanked Nashville 3-0 in Game 6, then the Wings blitzed past Colorado 8-2 in the West semifinals to complete a four-game sweep.
According to Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, it was important to put Dallas behind the 8-ball early. The Wings held a commanding 3-0 lead in the series before the Stars began to establish themselves with two straight wins.
“It was a bit of a test for us, losing two games in a row,” Lidstrom said. “They had the momentum going into their building. Their fans were really into it early on in the game and I thought we took it out of them right away, right off the bat with the first few shifts where we were coming after them hard.
“Going to the net hard and getting the puck to the net – that’s something we talked about all playoffs. I thought we got away from that a little in Game 4 and 5. In tonight’s game we were back at doing the right things, doing the little things right that paid off for us at the end.”
Veteran forward Kris Draper, part of Cup champion Detroit teams in 1997, 1998 and 2002, typified the effort Lidstrom was talking about when he inadvertently used his face to score the game’s first goal – the puck deflected off him and past Dallas goalie Marty Turco.
Draper was forced to go to the dressing room for repairs after celebrating the goal, but the battle-tested warrior wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“If I’ve got to score like that every game this time of year, I’ll take it,” Draper said.
A milestone victory – If advancing to the Final for the third time in his career wasn’t enough for Osgood, he also reached a pair of milestones against Dallas.
First of all, just by taking the ice, Osgood appeared in his 100th career NHL playoff game. And by beating the Stars, he notched his 55th win overall and 48th for the Wings, a new franchise record surpassing the 47 recorded by Hall of Fame goaltender Terry Sawchuk.
“That was something that I wanted, one of my goals among others,” Osgood said. “It was a special night.”
Ten years earlier, Osgood vaulted Detroit into the Final with a 2-0 win in another Game 6 against Dallas.
“Responding like he did back then, that's the way he’s been playing for us now, too,” Lidstrom said. “He’s mentally strong where he can just put things behind him, forget about a bad rebound, bad goal. He keeps on going for us. That’s huge for the guys, to see the way he’s responding to all the challenges.”
Dominik Hasek led the Wings to their last Cup title six years ago, and he was the starter when this postseason began. Osgood relieved him in Game 4 of the first round against Nashville and has started every contest since, improving to 10-2 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Sizing up Pittsburgh – The Atlantic and Central divisions didn’t match up during the regular season, but the Wings did play the Penguins in one of their first preseason games. Way back on Sept. 21, Detroit prevailed 1-0 in overtime on a goal by ageless defenseman Chris Chelios.
“I’ve watched them on TV and we played them in an exhibition – (Evgeni) Malkin wasn’t in the game,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “I was very impressed with their team then. They’ve got high skill level, they’ve got big forwards, their back end moves the puck, their goaltender is playing well.
“You start out with 30 (teams), and I believe in our League now, everybody’s good. And for two of you to be remaining, they must be really good. Their transition is fantastic. They’ve got a bunch of kids who can really skate and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us, but we’re excited about the opportunity.”
Osgood will match up against Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, a grizzled veteran against a young netminder making his first appearance in the Final.
“We’ve played some pretty good teams in the playoffs. Colorado had a lot of scoring. They got some injuries. We did a good job against them,” Osgood said. “We stress team defense. We don’t rely on one particular player. It’s everybody as one. That’s what we play. We’re going to have to be at our top team defensively against Pittsburgh, for sure. That’s without question.”
End of the road – After suffering a number of frustrating playoff setbacks in years past, Dallas got the monkey off its back with a pair of eye-opening series victories. The Stars knocked off defending champion Anaheim in six games and outlasted a San Jose team expected to contend for the Cup, also in six.
Still, it was a tough pill for coach Dave Tippett and his players to swallow, seeing their season end against Detroit despite a valiant comeback attempt.
“Winning in the playoffs, there’s nothing like it,” Tippett said. “I’m very proud of the effort. The commitment from our whole group was phenomenal. It’s frustrating losing, it’s disappointing losing, but I can honestly look at those guys, starting with (captain) Brenden Morrow, and they left everything on the ice. Everything.”
Morrow, who Tippett said was a leader not only on but off the ice during these playoffs, provided a lasting memory for Stars fans with his series-winning goal in the fourth overtime period against the Sharks. While it’s a moment he’ll undoubtedly replay in his mind for years to come, it wasn’t at the forefront after Monday’s defeat.
“We came a long way this year, but this wasn’t our ultimate goal,” said Morrow, who was doubled over on the ice at game’s end. “We did make some progress. We put a lot of work into this and want to do it again. This will make us hungrier.”
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.