St. John’s scores a pair of OT win for 3-1 series lead, can close out best-of-seven on Tuesday
Apparently, the towels in their dressing room are the only things the St. John’s IceCaps have that even remotely resemble a white flag.
The never-surrender IceCaps won their second straight overtime game in as many days Sunday, defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-2, a result that moves St. John’s to within one win of taking their best-of-seven American Hockey League second-round playoff series.
The IceCaps lead the Eastern Conference semifinal 3-1, with Game 5 set for Tuesday night in Wilkes-Barre.
For second straight day, the IceCaps had to come up with a gritty effort to claim a victory.
Ben Maxwell’s goal 27 seconds into extra time completed a 54-minute comeback for St. John’s, which trailed 2-0 less than seven minutes into the first period. The Penguins, clearly motivated to make up for a 2-1 overtime loss on Saturday, came out hard, getting goals from Colin McDonald and Eric Tangradi on their first two shots.
But the IceCaps never looked that shaken or rattled — “We held our composure, held our focus,” said St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge — and then they began a slow roll to victory.
“It’s not a 10-minute game, it’s not a one-period game, we had time to work with to chip away and get a win,” added the St. John’s coach.
His team needed all that regulation time and then about half a minute more.
The IceCaps got through the first period, and owned the second, getting a power-play goal from Derek Meech and a game-tying tally from Maxime Macenaeur, the latter’s first goal as an IceCap.
The third was the best period of the best game of the series. It featured no scoring, but just about everything else — hits, great plays, small mistakes, big saves, lucky stops and long stretches of action.
“That was intense,” said St. John’s defenceman Paul Postma, who came up with his best showing of the playoffs Sunday. “Once we got those two goals, we were good to go and we put a lot pressure on them.”
“That was definitely a playoff game with that back-and-forth mentality and guys sacrificing themselves and then willing to go out and sacrifice themselves again,” added fellow IceCaps rearguard Brett Festerling.
“It was tough and it was fun, especially fun to win because it would have been exhausting to lose that one.”
Festerling was part of the reason they did not lose. On their second shift of overtime, the IceCaps got a faceoff win, with the puck winding up on the stick of the veteran defenceman, who fed it back towards the crease.
“I didn’t really get a good shot, “ said Festerling. “but it got there, stayed there and even though it probably was only for a second, it seemed liked it stayed three minutes, with Kinger (Jason King) right there and finally he got to it and got it over to Maxy and he put it in.
“When he did, there was lot of relief.”
On Saturday, the IceCaps got a first-period goal from Brock Trotter and thanks mainly to outstanding work by Eddie Pasquale, made a 1-0 lead hold up until just before the final minute of regulation. That’s when Tangradi tallied with Wilkes-Barre netminder Brad Thiessen on the bench for an extra attacker.
At the time, it seemed like a body-shot set-up to a knockout punch, but it was the IceCaps who made the most of overtime, with Trotter scoring the winner midway through the frame after a rush that started at the centre-ice line.
“It stems from the personnel in that room,” answered McCambridge when asked why this IceCaps team could endure in situations that would do in other clubs. “One, they know they have a good team and the depth and the firepower to dig themselves out of (holes) and two, they have the character and the will to push through that deficit.”
He’s counting on that character to keep the IceCaps from being too pleased with themselves heading into Game 5
“It is a concern and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen Tuesday.” he said.
According to Festerling, putting the limits on self-satisfaction should simply be a matter of realizing how easily the situation could be reversed.
“That’s a real good team with a lot of proud guys over there and you know they’re going to show it,” he said, nodding his head towards the Penguins’ dressing room .
“As happy as we are, we have to realize that’s two OT wins. A couple of breaks for them or bad bounces for us and it could be the other way and we’re down 3-1.
“I’m glad we’re not,. I’m glad we’re the ones with the (series) lead, but that doesn’t mean we’ve finished the job.”
Shots on goal Sunday were 29-16 in favour of St. John’s, which had four shots in the 27 seconds of overtime ... The Coors Light three stars of Game 4 were the three St. John’s goal scorers: 1. Ben Maxwell 2. Maxime Macenauer 3. Derek Meech ... Paul Postma was the choice as the Mary Brown’s hardest-working IceCap ... Defenceman Arturs Kulda limped to the bench after a third-period collison with the Penguins’ Geoff Walker and was still limping after the game, but St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge expects Kulda to be good for Game 5 ... Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, the IceCaps’ NHL parent, took in the weekend games, as did IceCaps president Danny Williams, St. John’s GM Craig Heisinger and IceCaps chief operating officer Glenn Stanford ... The announced attendance Sunday was 3,449, not even half the capacity at the Mohegan Sun Centre ... Maxwell (G,A) and Jason King (2A) each had two point games for the IceCaps.... The IceCaps’ Brock Trotter was held pointless ending his seven-game playoff scoring streak ...The biggest star in the building: 84-year-old “Mr. Hockey,” Gordie Howe. His son and fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Mark is the director of pro scouting for the Detroit Red Wings and regularly takes in AHL games in Wilkes-Barre