The Edmonton Oilers walked into Joe Louis Arena on a Saturday morning with an opportunity to apply immense pressure on the President’s Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings. The date was April 29th, 2006, and the Oilers were back in Detroit for Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Many believed entering the series that this game would be the one where Detroit put the final nail in the Oiler coffin. Instead, the Oilers came back to Detroit with the series tied 2-2 and a chance to put the Red Wings on the brink before returning home for Game 6 on Monday night.
Game 5 started with both teams playing solid defensive hockey, and both goaltenders getting into a groove. Both Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson and Detroit’s Manny Legace were perfect in the opening frame, setting up a second period with the series up for grabs.
Edmonton, the feisty underdog not given a change, reached out and grabbed it. Chris Pronger fired a shot from the near point that clipped Fernando Pisani on it’s way in. The deflection fooled Legace, and Pisani’s third of the series gave Edmonton the lead 5:16 into the middle frame.
Another deflection would extend the Edmonton lead to 2-0 at the 8:34 mark. This time, Jarret Stoll walked in off the near point and into the near faceoff circle, snapping a shot that hit Ryan Smyth and beat Legace on the powerplay. It was Smyth’s second of the series, a textbook Smyth goal if there ever was one.
Edmonton’s dominance of the net-front continued later in the period, as Jason Smith fired a cross-ice pass off the near wall to Shawn Horcoff. The puck hit Horcoff’s leg and bounced onto Legace, who couldn’t corral the rebound. Horcoff, a Michigan State product, kept digging and eventually put home the marker that made it 3-0 in favor of the Oilers.
Brendan Shanahan would score at 18:39 on a breakaway to cut the lead to 3-1, keeping the Red Wings in it as the third period approached.
Detroit fired everything at Roloson in the final period, but struggled mightily to beat the veteran goaltender. Henrik Zetterberg did score his 5th of the series, but the goal came with 20 seconds remaining in regulation and down by two, not nearly enough time for Detroit to find the equalizer.
Edmonton left the ice with a gritty 3-2 victory in Game 5, giving them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Against the odds, the Oilers were heading back to Rexall Place with a chance to upset the Red Wings and win their first playoff series since 1998.