DETROIT - Colorado is just one win away from getting a chance to defend its Stanley Cup championship, thanks to Peter Forsberg.
Forsberg, who missed the entire regular season with a foot injury, scored 6:24 into overtime as the Avalanche stunned the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals last night at Joe Louis Arena.
Colorado leads 3-2 and can wrap up the best-of-seven series tomorrow night at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Forsberg, who assisted on Colorado's first goal, has an NHL-high 27 points in the postseason, including nine goals. His game- winner last night was not without controversy.
Defenseman Darius Kasparaitis passed the puck to rookie Brian Willsie in the Detroit zone. Willsie carried the puck down near the right face-off circle and passed it across the ice to Red Wings-killer Chris Drury, who fanned on it after getting tied up by Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer.
The puck slid across to Forsberg, who lifted it up over Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek.
“It was a hard call, a tough call, but it was offside,” Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said.
“We were all yelling offside, but who knows?” defenseman Mathieu Dandenault said. “All I know for sure is that they had a 4-on-2 on the winning play, and that never should happen.”
“The referees made the call - you got to trust what they're doing,” Forsberg said.
Forsberg has scored 22 points - 10 goals, 12 assists - in his last 14 playoff games against Detroit. But he said he didn't have anything special in mind when he was bearing down on Hasek.
“I'm not a natural goal-scorer,” Forsberg said. “I think the puck started to roll after I made the first move and I was a little surprised it went in. I'm not usually good at breakaways.”
Hasek had 27 saves; Patrick Roy 26.
“The puck accidentally made its way to Forsberg and I was sort of prepared for that move,” Hasek said. “But he shot it, it touched my shoulder, and went in.”
It was the third overtime game in the series between Detroit and Colorado - and the sixth in the heated rivalry since 1996. The road team has won all six meetings.
“It was a tough loss,” said captain Steve Yzerman, who scored Detroit's only goal. “We were hoping to be up 3-2. But now that we're trailing 3-2, I don't feel like we're done. We have a big game coming up. We need to respond in a big way.”
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation and the score tied 1-1, Detroit's Brendan Shanahan had a superb scoring chance. He hung onto the puck all the way across the slot, then deked Colorado goalie Roy, who went down on the ice.
Shanahan got off a bullet of a shot, but the puck hit the post before being cleared from the crease by Colorado's Adam Foote.
Shanahan has not scored on 22 shots in the series.
“I don't comment on individual players, because it's a team game,” Bowman said. “Nobody wins a game or loses a game, as far as I'm concerned.”
After a scoreless second period, it took Colorado just 54 seconds in the third to blow its eighth one-goal lead of the series.
Yzerman scored his sixth goal of the postseason, sneaking the puck past Roy on the short side, to tie the score and end the Red Wings' lengthy power-play slump.
The Wings had failed to score on their first two power-play opportunities last night, and were scoreless in their last 10 chances before Yzerman tallied his 67th career goal, tying him with Gordie Howe for the most in franchise history.
It was Yzerman's first goal of the series. It also was his first postseason goal since May 9, when he scored in Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues.
“I just threw the puck at the net and it went in,” Yzerman said.
As usual, Colorado scored first last night, just as it has in all five games of the series. Center Steven Reinprecht netted his seventh playoff goal at 17:11 of the first period.
He scored on a wraparound shot that hit Nicklas Lidstrom's skate and caromed into the net as Hasek watched helplessly from the other side.
Forsberg and Kasparaitis assisted on the even-strength goal. Forsberg has either scored or helped set up half of the Avalanche's 54 playoff goals.
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