NHL regular season comes to a close

April 6, 2003 at 11:14 PM
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DENVER, April 6 (UPI) -- The final day of the NHL season was one to remember for Milan Hejduk, Peter Forsberg, and the Colorado Avalanche.

It was also one to forget for the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings.

Hejduk scored his 50th goal Sunday to win the Maurice Richard Trophy, Forsberg became the first Swede to win the NHL scoring crown, and the Avalanche became the first team in league history to capture nine consecutive division titles.

Colorado needed help to repeat as Northwest Division champions, and they got it from the Los Angeles Kings, who wrapped up a disappointing season with a 2-0 win over the Canucks. Vancouver needed only a tie to unseat the Avalanche.

The Red Wings needed a win to secure the top seed in the Western Conference, but squandered a pair of leads in a 4-3 overtime loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. That opened the door for the Dallas Stars, who took advantage with a 2-0 win over the reeling Nashville Predators.

Hejduk became the fourth player in franchise history to reach the 50-goal mark. He reached that plateau off an assist by Forsberg.

"It is a special number, for sure," Hejduk said. "You can be that close every season, so it is a special number. I'm really happy that I made it."

"I said it would be great if we could finish first and second," Forsberg said. "Two guys from the same town in Sweden, it would be great."

Needing a win to capture their first division title since 1992-93, Naslund and the Canucks went down meekly against Los Angeles. That gave Colorado its ninth straight division title, one more than the Montreal Canadiens accumulated from 1974-75 through 1981-82.

"We obviously did what we had to do today," said Colorado Coach Tony Granato, who replaced Bob Hartley on Dec. 18. "That was the most important thing."

The top-seeded Stars again will face the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs, while the Avalanche drew Minnesota. The Red Wings drew Anaheim, and the Canucks will take on the St. Louis Blues.

All four Eastern Conference matchups were set Saturday.

The Ottawa Senators captured the Presidents' Trophy for best regular-season record, and will take on the New York Islanders.

The second-seeded New Jersey Devils face the Boston Bruins, Southeast Division champion Tampa Bay will play Washington, and the Philadelphia Flyers battle the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For the first time, two teams shared the Jennings Trophy, which goes to the team that allowed the fewest goals. Both the Devils and Flyers yielded 166 goals, meaning the names of Martin Brodeur, Roman Cechmanek, and Robert Esche all will be added to the trophy.

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