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Turnabout Is Fair Play as Avalanche Routs the Red Wings

Game 5: Colorado beats Detroit, 6-0, after losing the last game, 6-0; Roy's shutout extends series.


DENVER — This was why the Colorado Avalanche became the Stanley Cup champions last season. And this was why the Avalanche remained champions for at least one more game, responding Saturday with their best effort under the worst duress they have faced.

Attacking relentlessly, dumping the puck into the offensive zone and fighting for it with energy born of desperation, the Avalanche overwhelmed the Detroit Red Wings, 6-0, at McNichols Arena to cut Detroit's lead in the Western Conference finals to 3-2.

It was a stunning turnaround from the Avalanche's haphazard 6-0 loss in Game 4--and a reminder that it takes more than four victories to win a playoff series. It also takes heart and poise and half a dozen other qualities the Red Wings lacked Saturday.

"Your back is against the wall, and some of the better athletes perform well like that," said Avalanche right wing Claude Lemieux, who scored twice to increase his league-leading playoff goal total to 13 and tie a career high he set with New Jersey in 1995. "Before, it was three [victories] to go. Now it's two to go and we're going to keep on fighting.

"I believe in our club and I'm going to keep on believing."

Said Joe Sakic, whose two-goal, one-assist performance matched his output in the previous four games: "There's no way we want this thing to end. We've worked too hard all year. We have to believe the things we did right tonight, we can do in Detroit [on Monday]."

Despite the absence of center Peter Forsberg, who suffered a bruised right leg in Game 4 and couldn't put any pressure on the leg Saturday, the Avalanche maintained steady pressure on Detroit's defense and on goalie Mike Vernon. Left wing Valeri Kamensky helped compensate for Forsberg's absence with four assists, center Stephane Yelle contributed his first playoff goal and the Avalanche banged any Red Wing that moved, although there was no repeat of the brawl that marred Game 4.

"I think hard work was a big part of our strategy," Colorado Coach Marc Crawford said. "We've got to work hard and stay focused."

The Red Wings were out of it early, perhaps as early as when Colorado goalie Patrick Roy got the tip of his glove on a breakaway attempt by Darren McCarty at 9:25 of the first period, with the Avalanche holding a 1-0 lead. Less than two minutes after that save--one of 32 by Roy in his third shutout this spring and 11th in post-season play--Lemieux converted the rebound of a shot by Sandis Ozolinsh for his second goal. His first, at 6:46, also came on a rebound, after Vernon couldn't freeze a bouncing puck.

Vernon thwarted Sakic on a breakaway at 12:48, but Sakic prevailed at 15:34 when he faked a pass to Lemieux on a two-on-one break and instead shot the puck between Vernon's leg pads. Vernon was pulled in favor of Chris Osgood after giving up Yelle's goal, at 2:23 of the second period.

"They outhustled us," said Vernon, who had to watch the rest of the game on TV because the visitors' bench was too short to accommodate him. "There was no doubt."

The only doubt may now reside in the minds of the Red Wings.

They had a chance to clinch their second berth in the Cup finals in three years and get a few days' rest before facing the East winner. More than that, they had a chance to put to rest the questions that have dogged them since their loss to New Jersey in the 1995 finals and their loss to Colorado in last year's conference finals after a record 62-victory season.

Instead, they have two days to think about how to close out a series that seemed so lopsided such a short time ago. History still favors them: Only 13 teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a series, and none has done it in the conference finals.

"Of course I'm angry," left wing Brendan Shanahan said. "You don't come to play your best game, you deserve to be embarrassed like we were tonight.

"You look down the hallway. They got trashed in our building [in Game 4] and came back the next game. We have to do the same thing."

Said Crawford: "We have to have a great performance--our best road game of the year--in Detroit."

Western Conference Note

Colorado winger Mike Keane and defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh were fined for their involvement in a third-period fracas that marred Game 4. Avalanche Coach Marc Crawford had been fined $10,000 earlier for his tirade aimed at Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman.

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