Chicago through to Stanley Cup final

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks stormed into the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 18 years by completing a 4-0 clean sweep of the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

The Blackhawks finished off a surprisingly one-sided Western Conference final series by clawing their way back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 against the Sharks, who finished the regular season with the best record in the conference but ran out of puff in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks will now play the winner of the Eastern Conference final between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens. The Flyers lead 3-1 with a home game on Monday.

"It doesn't get any better," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said in a televised interview.

"This is what we play for and dream of since we're kids. It's going to be a hell of a time and we're going to have a lot of fun."

The Blackhawks, one of the original six NHL teams, have long been regarded as underachievers but are suddenly on the verge of ending a drought that has spanned almost half a century.

"They (Chicago) certainly deserved the series," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.

"I thought we played hard with them. We competed with them. You know, we battled. We were in every minute of every game, but we were the second-place team."


The Sharks had looked poised to force the series at least into a fifth game when they opened up a deserved 2-0 lead inside the second period only for Chicago to fight back with four unanswered goals.

The visitors opened the scoring at 11:08 of the first period when Logan Couture scored off a deflected shot, then doubled their advantage 7:35 into the second when Patrick Marleau found the net when his team were down a man.

"We didn't get the start we wanted but we stuck with it," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said.

"We wanted to get it done at home. It was just four games, but it felt longer than that."

Brent Seabrook pulled one back at 13:15 in the second after officials originally ruled a no-goal but allowed the score after a video review, then Dave Bolland tied the game two minutes before the end of the second period with a wraparound shot.

The final period was played at a ferocious pace as both teams searched for the winner. San Jose were unlucky not to regain the lead when they hit the post and Chicago seized their chance six minutes from the end.

"That was a heck of a team that we just beat," Toews said.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford and Clare Fallon)