PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Flames lead 3-2.
If the star-studded Detroit Red Wings need a sense of urgency to play their best, they have it now.
Though they clearly have superior talent, the Presidents Trophy-winning Red Wings have often been outworked by the pesky Flames in this series, and a 1-0 loss in Game 5 on Saturday has left them needing two straight wins to avoid a second consecutive disappointing postseason.
Unlike last year when it was swept in the first round by Anaheim, Detroit has already won a series. Losing in the second round to Calgary, however, would be unacceptable for a team that was built for nothing less than winning the Stanley Cup.
“We have a group of guys in here that, ever since I’ve been here, respond when we need it,” Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan said. “I’m confident we’re going to go into Calgary and respond really well.”
The Red Wings were in the same position in the 2002 conference finals against Colorado—down 3-2 with Game 6 on the road. Detroit staved off elimination with a 2-0 victory in Game 6, then won Game 7 7-0 before going on to beat Carolina for the Stanley Cup.
“We were in the same position a couple of years ago against Colorado,” said Red Wings coach Dave Lewis, then an assistant to Scotty Bowman. “We have to have the mentality that you have to win the game 1-0, but you have to accomplish that. Anything can happen in a Game 7, but you have to get to Game 7.”
Whatever the Red Wings do in Game 6 and the rest of this series, it will almost certainly be without Yzerman, who is out indefinitely after getting hit in the face with a puck in Game 5. Yzerman sustained a scratched cornea and a broken left eye socket. He underwent 4 1/2 hours of surgery on Sunday and is expected to make a full recovery.
“He’s been a tremendous leader and now it’s up to us to step up,” center Kris Draper said after practice Sunday. “Let’s go out and play a great game for him because he’s done so much for us.”
Calgary has scored only 10 goals in the first five games of this series, but Miikka Kiprusoff has given his team a chance to win every game.
Kiprusoff had arguably his best performance of the postseason in Game 5. He stopped 31 shots for his second career playoff shutout and the first by an opposing goalie at Detroit since April 16, 1997, 52 playoff games ago.
“He’s been like this all year,” Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. “He’s been the best goalie in the NHL. He doesn’t ever get rattled.”
Craig Conroy gave Kiprusoff all the support he needed when he scored his second goal of the postseason off a pass from Iginla with 3:53 left in the second period.
In their first playoff appearance since 1996, the Flames are one win away from an improbable trip to the conference finals.
“It’s been an emotional year for us, and we’ve played in a lot of big games, but none bigger than this,” Conroy said. “And now there’s none bigger than Game 6 in Calgary.”
Detroit has done a very good job of limiting Iginla, a Hart Trophy finalist as league MVP, to one goal and two assists in the series. The Flames, though, have received goals from eight players.
Both teams were without key players in Game 5.
Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, 42, was scratched for the third straight game with what is believed to be right arm injury. Calgary was without left wing Ville Nieminen, suspended one game for running Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph at the end of Game 4.
Though they are still without defensemen Denis Gauthier and Toni Lydman and forward Chris Simon, the Flames did get back defenseman Rhett Warrener and veteran left wing Dave Lowry for Game 5. Warrener played almost 24 minutes after missing two games with an eye injury, while Lowry registered three shots on goal in 12 1/2 minutes in his first appearance since Jan. 6.
Should the Red Wings avoid elimination, Game 7 would be Wednesday at Detroit.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Red Wings - Robert Lang, 4 goals and 9 points; Datsyuk, 6 assists; Shanahan, 20 PIM. Flames - Iginla, 6 goals and 11 points; Conroy, 6 assists, Nieminen, 29 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Red Wings - Power play: 10.2 percent (5 for 49). Penalty killing: 95.7 percent (44 for 46). Flames - Power play: 12.3 percent (7 for 57). Penalty killing: 81.4 percent (48 for 59).