SAN JOSE, Calif.
-- If it looked Pavel Datsyuk
wasn't having any trouble with his wrist Sunday night, that's because it was just fine.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. I'm OK. I'm fine," Datsyuk said when asked about his reported wrist injury. "Anyway, I'm not a shooter. It doesn't help me anyway. My job is to chip in goal, hit somebody hard."
He didn't chip in any goals against the San Jose Sharks in Game 5, but he had three crucial assists as the Red Wings rallied for a 4-3 victory to trim the Sharks' lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series to 3-2 and force Game 6 back in Detroit on Tuesday night.
On the game-winning goal scored by Tomas Holmstrom
, the strength and vision of Datsyuk were on full display. He shielded the puck from a pair of Sharks defenders before finding a wide-open Nicklas Lidstrom
just inside the blue line. Lidstrom's shot was deflected home by Holmstrom with 6:08 remaining in the third period and capped a rally from a 3-1 hole.
Datsyuk also made the pass that set up Jonathan Ericsson
's goal early in the third period that cut the Sharks' lead to 3-2. With the Red Wings less than 20 minutes away from elimination, one of the game's best player got it done.
"I thought Pavel was unbelievable in the third," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He's a world-class player. It's interesting as you watch the playoffs. There's lots of nice players during the regular season and they've got good skill and all that. But if you don't have a drive, and you don't compete at the highest level, you can't win at this time of year.
"It's all about competition level and digging in and winning those battles. And that's what Pavel has."
While Datsyuk said his wrist his fine, he didn't take a single faceoff in Game 5. While he gets a ton of credit for his skill and intelligence, sometimes his toughness and willingness to play through pain goes unnoticed.
"He's a really inspirational player for us," said Danny Cleary
, who tied the score at 3-3 during the third-period comeback. "He works hard. His work ethic and skill level combined is why he's so good. He's got great strength on the puck and he's physical."
Datsyuk is tied for the lead in playoff points with 13, but he's reached that number in just 9 games, which is at least two fewer than the players who also have 13 points.
"He just amazes us every single night," said Jimmy Howard
, who made 39 saves for the Red Wings.