In Denver, Evgeni Nabokov stopped 28 shots, and San Jose scored three goals in the second period to eliminate Colorado and reach the Western Conference finals for the first time in its 13-year history.
Vincent Damphousse, Marcel Goc and Jonathan Cheechoo had goals to help San Jose avoid becoming the third team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games.
The Avalanche won Games 4 and 5 in overtime to put pressure on the Sharks, but Colorado was sluggish early and couldn't beat Nabokov again after Milan Hejduk scored late in the second period.
In the penultimate period Tuesday night -- as the Avalanche was submissively dissolving -- the scoreboard pleaded: "Cheer like there's no tomorrow."
There is no this morning for the Avs. There is no Thursday night in San Jose. There is no next round in Calgary or next month in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
There probably won't even be a next season.
All the Avs' tomorrows are next to nothing.
The 2003-2004 team of underachieving, underwhelming, trodden Avalanche will never be back together again.
This was the farewell tour.
The Sharks won the endgame over the Avs 70-1 or -- what difference does it make? -- 3-1. Checkmate.
Afterward, coach -- for the time being -- Tony Granato acknowledged what everyone could see clearly: The Avalanche "did not live up to expectations."
If Dickens had been here for Game 6, he would have written: "It is a melancholy truth that Great Expectations turned into a not-so-great finish."
The Sharks, who had been floating on their bellies for two games, became a strike force in Game 6. Twelve shots on goal in the opening period -- to two for the Avs. The Avalanche outshot the Sharks in the second period 17-13, but the Sharks outscored the Avalanche 3-1.
"In the end, we lost, and it's tough to say exactly what went wrong," goaltender David Aebischer said.
Scoring only seven goals in six games might have had something to do with what went wrong. Suffering through "a stretch of 20 straight power plays without a goal," Granato said, might have contributed.
But this was a team, it has been forgotten, that didn't win half its games during the regular season.
"Obviously, the thing that plagued us all year was inconsistency, and that's what ended up losing it for us in this series," said Joe Sakic, who has hoisted two Cups at City Hall but for a third straight year won't drink from the chalice. Tuesday night was "again an inconsistent start. The first period wasn't very good. Being down 0-3 is a tough thing to come back on."
The Avs had been down 0-3 in the series, then 0-3 in Game 6. They weren't able to overcome either.
General manager Pierre Lacroix's tinkering with the Avalanche was not worth a tinker's fig.
So many new players, so little chemistry.
And the Avs were defeated by a younger, quicker, closer, better bunch from San Jose. The Sharks started at the beginning on Tuesday night.
"From the first shift," former Avalanche matinee idol Mike Ricci said, "we came at them, and we didn't let up.
"I think it was a tough series, and I think we should have won."
Agreed. The Sharks deserve to be in their first Western Conference finals, the Avs deserve to be staying home -- or leaving Denver.
As for the uncertainty of the Avalanche's and the National Hockey League's future, Sakic said: "We just finished this year. I don't know. To be honest with you, I haven't thought about that."