Tied Oilers-Red Wings series now best-of-three
DETROIT -- The Red Wings entered the playoffs with the NHL's best record. The Edmonton Oilers got in as an eighth-seeded team.
Those facts have been rendered meaningless.
Their best-of-seven series is tied at two games apiece after both teams split games at home, setting up an important Saturday afternoon showdown in Detroit.
"Game 5 is obviously a huge game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It's pretty straightforward."
If Detroit wins, it will have to win only one of the next two -- Game 6 at Edmonton or Game 7 at home -- to advance to the second round. If the Stanley Cup favorites lose, they'll have to respond by winning two straight games for the first time in the series to avoid a third straight early exit in the playoffs.
The Red Wings won Game 1 in double overtime, lost the next game and dropped Game 3 at Edmonton in double OT. Detroit won 4-2 on the road Thursday night, making Game 5 pivotal.
Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, whose first goal of the series proved to be the game-winner in Game 4, said Edmonton began the playoffs with a competitive edge the Red Wings didn't have to summon late in the regular season.
"Edmonton has been playing like that for the last month going into the playoffs," Lidstrom said. "We were kind of the opposite."
Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk missed nearly three weeks with a thigh injury before returning for Game 2. But it wasn't until Thursday that the team's leading scorer started to look like his dazzling self and helped the Red Wings display their talent as they often did during the regular season.
"He's got his legs back and suddenly we're a lot quicker team," Babcock said.
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish ranted about the officiating after Game 4, in which the Red Wings had 11 power plays to Edmonton's nine. A call wasn't made on Lidstrom's third-period goal, which came on what looked like an NBA pick-and-roll play -- something against the rules in the NHL.
"It was very disappointing for everybody that the game went that way and it was steered that way from the outset by the officials," MacTavish said. "It was an egregious error to put the game in the officials' hands."
One of MacTavish's players seemed to differ.
"We can't be complaining like that," forward Raffi Torres said. "We took stupid penalties and it cost us the game."
Babcock hopes to have captain Steve Yzerman in the lineup after he was scratched from Game 4, reportedly because of a lower-back injury.
"I think he'll be fine," Babcock said.
The Oilers said they'll be fine, too, even though the Red Wings snatched home-ice advantage back in the series.
"`We've [won at Detroit] before and we know we can do it there," center Jarret Stoll said. "You can't help but to remain confident with the way we've been playing.
"We've got to go in there and get a big win and regroup and have a big team effort like we did in Game 2. Coming back here with the lead would be nice," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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