It had been the Detroit Red Wings' best season in the last 40, but it ended in disastrous fashion.
Goaltender Tim Cheveldae, a key to the season that brought a Norris Division title, made a valiant effort to prolong it Friday night at Chicago.
But with only 1:34 to play, Brent Sutter beat him to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 victory and a sweep of the best-of-seven division final series.
With Ed Belfour making 32 saves, the Blackhawks earned the right to play the winner of the Edmonton-Vancouver series for the Campbell Conference title, with the winner advancing to the final round of the Stanley Cup.
"We're just going to enjoy tonight and get back to work in two days," defenseman Chris Chelios said. "Everybody's too happy to think much about who we play."
Detroit finished the regular season 11 points ahead of the Blackhawks, but in three of the four games, the Red Wings couldn't solve Belfour. In the one game they did, Cheveldae played poorly. In addition to the shutout, Belfour gave up one goal twice and a total of six in the four games.
It was only the second playoff goal this spring for Sutter, who was one of the stars of the New York Islanders when they won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the 1980s.
The Red Wings had the best chances to score in the second period. But Belfour stopped Paul Ysebaert on a three-on-two break and foiled Alan Kerr twice from directly in front of the crease.
But Belfour had nothing to do with the best chance the Red Wings had in the second period. With 22 seconds left, Sergei Federov fired a shot from close range. It cleared Belfour, but it hit the crossbar.
Edmonton 3, Vancouver 2--Scott Mellanby's goal in the last minute of the second period gave the Oilers the lead and goaltender Bill Ranford made it stand.
Ranford, who survived a 20-shot barrage in the first period at Edmonton, had to face only six in the last period when the Oiler defense took charge.
Petr Klima, who scored the first Edmonton goal, assisted on the second.
With a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Oilers can wrap it up with a victory Sunday night at Vancouver.
During the regular season the Canucks finished 14 points ahead of the third-place Oilers. But in the playoffs they can't keep up with Edmonton's speed.
The game ended in anger. Players from both teams streamed on the ice and there were several scuffles. There were no fights and officials were able to clear the ice without a major incident.