The Stanley Cup will go through Detroit again.
Larry Murphy and Sergei Fedorov scored and Chris Osgood notched his fifth career playoff shutout as the Red Wings defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 Friday night to wrap up the Western Conference title in six games.
The defending Stanley Cup champions advanced to the finals for the third time in four years. Detroit will open the best-of-7 championship series Tuesday night against the Eastern Conference champion Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena.
"This is another big step to where we want to be," said forward Darren McCarty, who set up Detroit's first goal. "We're not done, yet. Our mission is not over. Our sights are set higher. Not to downplay what we've done, but we've done this before."
The Stars won the Presidents' Trophy for having the best record in the NHL during the regular season (49-22-11), and had the best road record at 23-14-4. Still, the Red Wings were 2-1-2 against Dallas during the regular season and the Stars now are just 1-17-2 in their 20 visits to Joe Louis Arena since the franchise moved from Minnesota.
"They played well at home and we didn't play well enough," Dallas defenseman Derian Hatcher said. "Everybody's disappointed; no question about it. But there's not a lot you can do about it. We gave it our all."
"We talked about that, to go out there and no matter what happens, to keep trying and everyone did."
Yet if any one thing did Dallas in during the conference finals, it probably was the disappearance of its power play. The Stars were just 1-for-30 with the man advantage during the series with Detroit, and 0-for-5 in the sixth and deciding game.
"I don't think that was the difference," Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think the big difference was that we were over-extending ourselves. You can't score one or two goals and expect to beat a team like Detroit."
"We had more opportunities, by far, in this series but we didn't finish them off. I think that was the key to the series."
Dallas peppered Osgood with 30 or more shots in Games 3-5, but the Red Wings had a 31-26 shot edge in Game 6.
And the Red Wings only added to Dallas' frustration by opening the scoring with a shorthanded goal, their second of the series.
With a few seconds left in Kris Draper's roughing penalty, Steve Yzerman snared a loose puck and slid it over to McCarty near center ice. McCarty hurried over the blue line, turned at the left circle and fed the puck to Murphy, who had a step on Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov.
Murphy faked Ed Belfour toward the right side of the net, then flipped a backhander over the goalie's stick for a shorthanded goal and 1-0 lead at 6:20 of the first period.
"Murphy made uch a great move," McCarty said. "I thought that was a really big goal."
Detroit, bidding to become the first team since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992 to repeat as Cup champion, kept the pressure on. Only the strong play of Belfour kept the score close as the Red Wings outshot Dallas 14-7 in the first period with several quality chances.
Fedorov scored his first goal in eight games, since the second-round series with St. Louis, on a no-look shot from the top of the slot. Fedorov, who leads the NHL with nine playoff goals, seemed to catch Belfour by surprise for a 2-0 lead 1:48 into the second period.
"That second goal really put us in a tough position," Hitchcock said. "They were able to assume a position then, and we never could take them out of it."
The Stars came alive after that. But then it was Osgood's turn to shine. Dallas peppered Osgood, outshooting Detroit 11-7 in the second period. But Osgood, who also shut out Dallas in Game 1, came up with big saves to frustrate Mike Keane, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Pat Verbeek among others.
"I felt great tonight," Osgood said. "The last two series have been the best series I've ever played. Today felt great. I can't wait to start the finals."
Six appears to be a magic number for Detroit. The Red Wings also needed six games to advance past Phoenix and St. Louis in the first two rounds. A year ago, the Red Wings got blown out in Game 5 of the conference finals at Colorado, but rebounded to finish the series in Game 6, then swept the Philadelphia Flyers in the Cup finals.
The 19,983 fans let Osgood know he was forgiven for the soft Dallas overtime goal that made this game necessary with chants of "Ozzie" as the teams lined up for the Star Spangled Banner.
It was not unlike the rousing ovation Detroit fans gave Tigers first baseman Darrell Evans the day after his base-running blunder cost his team a victory in Game 4 of the 1987 American League baseball playoffs against Minnesota.
"That meant a lot to me when they did that," Osgood said.
The Red Wings' goaltender never was worried about lack of fan support, anyway.
"The fans never really got on me, that was more the media," Osgood said.
The chants rocked the arena again late in the game as the clock became the Stars' biggest enemy. Osgood responded with big saves on quality shots by Grant Marshall, Dan Keczmer and Modano in the final three minutes.
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