Oilers confident they can take out Red Wings

Updated: May 1, 2006, 12:02 AM ET
Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Ethan Moreau points to one big reason why the upstart Oilers have the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings on the brink of playoff elimination: Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson.

Detroit, which had an NHL-best 124 points in the regular season, has outshot Edmonton 202-126 and won more faceoffs (193-149) in the first-round Western Conference playoff series, but it's the eighth-seeded Oilers who lead 3-2 in the best-of-seven matchup and can knock out the Red Wings on Monday night at home.

"Rollie has been the key to the series," Moreau said. "He's making difficult saves look easy."

Especially in the first period of Saturday's 3-2 win in Detroit when Roloson stopped 11 shots and stopped four Detroit power plays to set the tone.

"We're creating turnovers and it's frustrating for teams that are used to ... having things go their way," Oilers center Michael Peca said.

Fellow forward Shawn Horcoff scored the winning goal Saturday in the second period and went face first to block a shot at the end of the game.

"His head was right in the shooting lane," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "Pretty inspiring act of courage on his part."

"To lay in front of shot like that is kind of the way this team looks at itself," Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger said.

Pronger has also played a big role in Edmonton's playoff success with a team-leading seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games.

Detroit finished with the NHL's best overall record (58-16-8) and road record (31-7-3) and sported the league's top power play during the regular season. But that hasn't translated into much success against the pesky Oilers, who clinched a playoff berth in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

"It's a great feeling," Oilers forward Ryan Smyth said. "We feel confident, but not too confident, that we can get to another level."

The Oilers have not been to the second round of the playoffs since 1998, a five-game loss to Dallas. Edmonton has just three players -- Smyth, Georges Laraques, and Rem Murray -- remaining from that team.

"We're happy with the situation," MacTavish said. "But we know the fourth win is always the toughest."

Should Detroit lose Monday, it will mark the third straight season it has been an early playoff upset victim. The Red Wings were swept 4-0 by Anaheim in the first round in 2003 off another Presidents' Trophy-winning season. They followed that up the next year with a six-game, second-round loss to Calgary.

Detroit goalie Manny Legace, a longtime backup thrust into the No. 1 role this season, allowed three goals on his first 11 shots Saturday and knows he must play better to extend the Red Wings' season.

"I don't think we've been relaxed once this whole series," he said. "We just have to relax, and play."

Detroit captain Steve Yzerman skated gingerly Sunday, and the 40-year-old forward won't know until game time if he'll sit out a third straight game with a sore back.

"I'm hopeful and encouraged I will feel better come game time," he said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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