Dan Cleary came through, though, scoring a tiebreaking goal with 3 minutes left that lifted Detroit to a 4-3 win on Thursday night that sent the defending Stanley Cup champions to the Western Conference finals for the third consecutive year.
"Most teams that have won the Stanley Cup don't even get here," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "For us to be in this situation is a real positive, but we have a hungry Chicago team waiting for us."
Detroit will play host to the Blackhawks in Game 1 on Sunday, matching up the Original Six teams in the playoffs for the first time since the conference finals in 1995.
"It should be fun," Babcock said.
Before Detroit did it, Colorado was the most recent NHL team to reach the conference finals after hoisting the Cup. The Avalanche lost to Detroit 7-0 in the deciding game in 2002.
The previous two Cup champions met for the third time since the NHL expanded in 1967, and all three series went the distance. The Edmonton Oilers needed overtime to get past Calgary in 1991, and Montreal beat Boston by two goals in 1971.
Four of the games in this series were decided by a goal, including Game 2 in triple overtime.
"It was the best series I've been in," Babcock said.
HURRICANES 3, BRUINS 2 (OT)
In Boston, Scott Walker scored his first NHL playoff goal 18:46 into overtime to beat Boston and send Carolina into the Eastern Conference finals.
Byron Bitz gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 7:42 of the first period, and Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour tied it six minutes later. Sergei Samsonov put the Hurricanes ahead 2-1 at 7:45 of the second period, but Milan Lucic tied it for the Bruins at 6:19 of the third.
Carolina will face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of that series on Wednesday, in the East finals.