Once again the Detroit Red Wings have pulled off a successful balancing act.
"We don't enjoy being on the edge," Detroit defenseman Paul Coffey said after the Red Wings triumphed 5-2 over the Colorado Avalanche Monday night, staving off elimination in the NHL Western conference finals and sending the best-of-7 series back to Denver for Game 6 Wednesday night. "We'd rather it was us with the 3-2 lead."All we did was give ourselves a chance to play another game."
The Red Wings, who won an NHL-record 62 games during the regular season, have barely survived in the postseason. This is the third time Detroit has been pushed to the brink of elimination, and the Avalanche still feel as if they are the team that can do it.
Colorado, which leads the series 3-2, is 11-6 during the playoffs. Detroit, a team that only lost 13 games all season, is 10-8 in its quest to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1955.
"We just want to prepare much better because we weren't good enough tonight," Avalanche coach Marc Crawford said. "We have to do better, and we've shown that we can play a lot better throughout these playoffs."
The Red Wings, as they did frequently during the season, relied on their Russian unit - getting goals from Vyacheslav Kozlov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Fedorov - plus the goaltending of Chris Osgood.
Doug Brown and Greg Johnson had the other two goals for Detroit, which broke to a 2-0 lead after one period. Osgood made 26 saves.
Mike Ricci scored twice on power plays for Colorado, which was 2-of-4 with a man advantage. The last time the Red Wings rallied from a 3-1 playoff deficit was 1992 in the first round against the then-Minnesota North Stars. Only 13 teams in NHL history have overcome a 3-1 deficit since the seven-game format was adopted in 1939. Eleven of those comebacks have occurred in the last nine years, two by Detroit.
"The pressure is still on them," Colorado defenseman Adam Foote said. "But we'll play it like it's Game 7 on Wednesday night. It's a great series. Everyone should enjoy it."
The Red Wings are 9-2 when scoring first in the playoffs. This time they scored the first two goals in a 1:04 span of the first period.
"Getting the lead is a big factor," Colorado defenseman Uwe Krupp said. "When you don't have the lead, then you have to create all the time. So, it's an important factor to get an early start."
It's not that the Avalanche didn't try. Osgood simply was too quick.
Twenty-three seconds after Kozlov's first-period goal, Osgood turned in perhaps the biggest play of the night, robbing Peter Forsberg from close range. If the Avalanche had been able to tie it so quickly, it might have changed the complexion of the game.
Instead, the Red Wings still had the lead and quickly added to it.
Colorado goalie Patrick Roy, who made 21 saves, was pulled twice for a sixth attacker during a Colorado power play in the third period. He went to the bench at 13:19 and returned at 13:58, went to the bench again at 14:28 and returned at 15:32, all while Fedorov was off for interference.