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Andreas Lilja, right, Mikael Samuelsson and Kris Draper of the Red Wings celebrate an 8-2 series-clinching win. ((Jack Dempsey/Associated Press))

Knowing they could knock the Colorado Avalanche out of the playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings opened the scoring in the fifth minute Thursday night — and things just snowballed from there.

Johan Franzen notched a hat trick and Henrik Zetterberg had four points as the Red Wings annihilated the Avalanche 8-2 and completed a four-game sweep of the Western Conference semifinal.

Franzen finished with nine goals in the series to eclipse the franchise record of eight held by the legendary Gordie Howe since 1949.

"I didn't follow the game back then," he quipped.

"Good for him," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "If you're going to break records, you might as well break Gordie Howe's."

Franzen has been an offensive revelation in the playoffs, leading Detroit with 11 goals and 14 points.

And with two rounds still to be decided, he has a legitimate shot at breaking the NHL record of 19 goals shared by Reggie Leach (1976) and Jari Kurri (1985).

"I don't expect to score that much the rest of the playoffs," Franzen said. "I only hope I can contribute something offensively."

Franzen has scored 26 goals in the past 26 games, and is the first Red Wings skater to post two hat tricks in a playoff series since Norm Ullman in 1964.

"I got really lucky," Franzen said. "I think they gave up after 4-1, so I got a couple of freebies."

"He has been great," Babcock said. "He is a big, big man with lots of skill.

"We're lucky to have him. We feel good about that."

Zetterberg had two goals and two assists, Mikael Samuelsson tallied twice, and Tomas Holmstrom rounded out the scoring for the top-ranked Red Wings.

Pavel Datsyuk provided three assists, while Valterri Filppula, Jiri Hudler and Nicklas Lidstrom had two assists apiece.

Chris Osgood turned aside 29 of 31 shots to improve to 6-0 since replacing Dominik Hasek as Detroit's starting netminder.

"I won't apologize for beating them like this," Zetterberg said. "I know they will come back at us next year."

Joe Sakic set up power-play goals by Tyler Arnason and John-Michael Liles for the sixth-seeded Avalanche, who were minus injured Peter Forsberg (groin), Ryan Smyth (foot), Paul Stastny (knee), Marek Svatos (knee) and Wojtek Wolski (ribs). 

"Their team was depleted by the end here," Babcock said. "I mean come on, that is not fair.

"I have seen injuries in the playoffs. But I have never seen that many injuries."

"Everybody deals with them over the course of the playoffs and seasons," Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we had an abnormal share."

Jose Theodore yielded three goals on 20 shots before being yanked in favour of Peter Budaj, who was peppered with 25 shots.

As much as Colorado impressed at the Pepsi Center, posting a 27-12-2 mark on home ice, Detroit was one of the league's most successful road teams at 25-12-2.

"That is a real kick in the teeth," Avalanche forward Andrew Brunette said. "We did not respond well.

"You trail 4-1 against these guys, you start trying to cheat and trying to score goals to get back in and it is 6-1, 7-1.

"To get out of that first period 1-1 would have been a pretty big accomplishment."

Seven straight goals 

Samuelsson's first goal of the playoffs staked the Red Wings to a 1-0 lead at 4:33 of the first period, but Arnason replied less than three minutes later for Avalanche.

Detroit scored the next seven goals, beginning with Holmstrom's second on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 break with Zettterberg 18:34 into the period. 

Forty-seven seconds later, Franzen swept the puck past Theodore on a give-and-go with Filppula to make it 3-1.  

Zetterberg tallied two goals in 2½ minutes early in the second period, the first on a blistering slapshot and the second on a dazzling backhand move.

Datsyuk circled back to corral the puck in the neutral zone, sped up ice and spun around to drop it to Zetterberg, whose initial shot was stopped by Budaj.

But spinning backward, Zetterberg whacked the rebound over Budaj's left shoulder for the highlight goal of the playoffs.

Franzen scored shorthanded to make it 6-1, flipping the puck over a sprawled Budaj on a 2-on-1 break, and later deflected Lidstrom's point shot for his third goal of the game and ninth of the series with 2:45 left in the period.

With files from the Associated Press