DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Red Wings-San Jose Sharks series has been picked apart from every direction by those trying to figure it out.
San Jose had 2-0 leads in each of the first two games of the Western Conference semifinal, blowing the cushion in Game 2.
Detroit scored first when the series shifted to San Jose, but lost. The Sharks built another two-goal lead in Game 4, and were seconds away from a 3-1 series lead, but ended up losing in overtime - leaving the series tied at 2.
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Detroit. The way the series has gone, it just might not prove to be pivotal and scoring first might not be an advantage.
The play of the goaltenders, however, seems to be the factor that will determine who advances and who goes home.
"It's the same thing as a pitcher in baseball and that's totally understandable because the goalies make the biggest difference in the game," San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. "Sometimes goalies get too much credit and sometimes they get too much blame.
"I'm not making saves against Dominik Hasek, but I do want to make as many saves as he does. You always want to do as good, or better, as the guy across."
Hasek is between the pipes again for moments like this.
Instead of retiring as an all-time great last summer when Ottawa didn't want him back, the two-time MVP and six-time Vezina Trophy winner returned to play for the Red Wings after helping them win a Stanley Cup in 2002.
"This is the reason I came back," Hasek said. "I didn't come back just to play, but to compete for the Stanley Cup. And now, I have the chance. We are only in the second round, but this is the most exciting time for me."
It probably wouldn't be an exciting time for any of the Red Wings if not for Hasek.
"You don't come back in these games without Dom," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Kris Draper agreed, saying, "With the two wins we have, we've been down 2-0 and he's basically shut the door and hasn't given up the third."
At the other end of the rink, Nabokov has allowed late goals that has kept the Western Conference's top-seeded team in the playoffs.
Pavel Datsyuk's goal with 1:24 left in Game 2 gave Detroit the win. Robert Lang scored with 33.1 seconds to tie Game 4 and Mathieu Schneider won it late in the first overtime.
"You can't just say, `OK, let's forget about it.' You're obviously thinking about the mistakes," Nabokov said. "But there comes a time that you have to prepare to play the next game and win the next game.
"But obviously, the game like (Wednesday night) was tough to swallow. We have to learn our lesson."
The Sharks have had trouble putting Detroit away in the series. A year ago, they lost a 2-0 series lead over Edmonton in last year's conference semifinals.
San Jose coach Ron Wilson said that collapse is irrelevant at this point. But to Nabokov, that experience and this one against Detroit shows the Sharks they have to work on their killer instinct.
"That's something we have to overcome," he said.
While the Red Wings are proud of their rallies in the series, the Sharks are disappointed that they're letting leads change their style.
"We've sat back more than we should and we've stopped skating and forechecking," Mike Grier said. "That has hurt us."
Sharks forward Bill Guerin will not play in Game 5 after a teammate's deflected shot seriously cut his face in Game 4. That loss led to another line-shuffling move by Wilson, moving fourth-line forward Steve Bernier to Patrick Marleau's line.
"You're just looking to find some sort of chemistry," Wilson said. "Hopefully, Bernie can get on top of things and help get Patty going."
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