JUST DUCKY: Anaheim is up next in Western finals
Ted Kulfan / The Detroit News
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Thanks to the goaltending of Dominik Hasek, and two Mikael Samuelsson goals, the Red Wings are headed to the Western Conference Finals.
Hasek was outstanding, as he usually is in a close-out situation, and Samuelsson provided the offense as the Wings defeated the San Jose Sharks, 2-0, Monday night.
The Wings won the best-of-seven semifinal series 4-2. The Wings won the last three games, after forcing overtime in Game 4 on Robert Lang's goal with 33 seconds left.
"We've played two good, strong teams and now we're going to have another one," coach Mike Babcock said. "We competed hard. We knew they'd throw everything at us."
The Wings advance to face the Anaheim Ducks for the conference championship. The first game of the series is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Joe Louis Arena. Game 2 is Sunday at JLA, also at 7:30 p.m., before the series shifts to Anaheim.
The Wings and Ducks split four games during the regular season, each winning twice at home.
Hasek made 28 saves as he earned his third shutout in his last five series-clinching opportunities with the Wings (he also shut out St. Louis and Colorado in 2002). Hasek allowed one goal to Carolina in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals and Calgary in the first round this season.
"For the teams that have stable goaltending, they have a chance every year in the playoffs," Babcock said.
With the Sharks pressing after falling behind 2-0 after one period, Hasek withstood the pressure.
Hasek made 10 saves in the second period (San Jose outshot the Wings 10-5), the best possibly being on Sharks forward Steve Bernier on a partial breakaway.
The Wings killed all four San Jose power plays. The Wings' injury-riddled defense, led by veterans Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios, responded to the challenge of not having Mathieu Schneider, who was lost for the remainder of the playoffs after suffering a broken left wrist in Game 5.
Samuelsson scored two first-period goals, giving him three in the last two games after not having scored in 16 previous playoff games.
"It felt great," Samuelsson said. "But it felt great to win. We didn't want to go back and play Game 7."
The Wings failed to capitalize on a four-minute power play midway through the first period after Sharks forward Joe Thornton was called for high-sticking Danny Markov.
In fact, the Wings were out-shot 3-1 by the Sharks during the man-advantage, not exactly a good way to build momentum.
But a little more than two minutes after the penalty expired, Chelios (who assisted on both Samuelsson goals) found Johan Franzen streaking up the middle.
Franzen took several strides and passed to Samuelsson, who had the angle on Sharks defenseman Matt Carle.
Samuelsson wheeled past Carle, cut through the front of the net, and backhanded the puck around goalie Evgeni Nabokov at 15:26.
With the Wings holding a 1-0 lead, they quickly got on the power play again after Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo interfered with Tomas Holmstrom.
But the best scoring chance belonged to San Jose during the two minutes, as Sharks forward Mike Grier's wraparound after Hasek had misplayed the puck was thwarted by the outstretched stick of Lidstrom.
Hasek made up for the mishap with a nice stop on Sharks forward Milan Michalek on a 2-on-1 rush.
Then, with both teams seemingly playing for the end of the period, Samuelsson gave the Wings a 2-0 lead.
Samuelsson kept the puck during a 2-on-1 rush and fired a shot that beat Nabokov on the short side with eight seconds remaining.
You can reach Ted Kulfan at (313) 223-4606, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Red Wings vs. Ducks
Friday: 7:30 at Detroit.
Sunday: 7:30 at Detroit
Tuesday: 9 at Anaheim, Calif.
May 17: 9 at Anaheim
x-May 20: 3 at Detroit
x-May 22: 9 at Anaheim
x-May 24: 7:30 at Detroit