DALLAS -- So much for the demise of the Detroit Red Wings. Not only are they headed back to the Stanley Cup finals, they're again looking like the club that dominated the regular season and most of the playoffs.
After consecutive losses hinted at vulnerability, the Red Wings bounced back strong in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, getting first-period goals from Kris Draper, Pavel Datsyuk and Dallas Drake on their way to knocking out the Dallas Stars, 4-1, on Monday night.
"We were relentless," Draper said. "It was just a solid first period and obviously the difference in the hockey game. . . . We're back in the Stanley Cup and it sounds great for us."
Detroit led this series 3-0 before running into trouble. Now that the fear of a collapse is gone, the focus turns to winning its fourth championship in 11 seasons. The Red Wings will face the Pittsburgh Penguins starting Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
This will be Detroit's 23rd Cup finals but first since 2002 despite having at least 100 points and winning the division every season since. The Red Wings lost to the Ducks in the conference finals last season.
"We were close last year and as disappointing as last year was, it was a great learning experience for everyone young and old on this team," forward Kirk Maltby said. "I think it's a big reason why we're going back this year."
Detroit had the most points in the league this season, then won a franchise-record nine straight playoff games. It was the longest run by any team in 15 years and it put them a win away from eliminating the fifth-seeded Stars.
Dallas clawed back by limiting Detroit to a single goal in Games 4 and 5. The Red Wings exceeded that output in the first period Monday, with all three goals coming on uncontested shots right in front of the net. Henrik Zetterberg scored a short-handed goal early in the second period and the series was all but over then.