You might hear it described as a boxing match. That would not be accurate.
It was more like those bouts in the “Rocky” movies, which really bore little similarity to real boxing, but instead feature opponents alternately throwing haymakers and picking themselves off the canvas to go at it again.
That was Tuesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, where the St. John’s IceCaps and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins played Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed (it doesn’t matter which was which) in an American Hockey League playoff game that went into double overtime.
Penguins’ defenceman Simon Despres ended the marathon by slipping a backhander of his own rebound past St. John’s goalie Eddie Pasquale at 12:08 of the second extra frame.
The resulting 3-2 Wilkes-Barre win means the Penguins are still alive in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal, trailing 3-2, with Game 6 Friday night in St. John’s. If a Game 7 is necessary, it would go Saturday at Mile One Centre.
Other playoff games have gone on much longer, but considering this was the third straight overtime contests between the two clubs at the Mohegan Sun — St. John’s had won 2-1 Saturday and 3-2 Sunday in games decided in the first extra frame — the effort was to be appreciated.
And there was effort.
This was not a pretty game. Mistakes? There were many, including one by the officials, insist the IceCaps, who are convinced they were denied what was a good goal that would have put them up 2-0 in the first period. Turnovers? There isn’t enough whipped cream in northeast Pennsylvania to fill those produced here Tuesday night.
But effort? The two benches were factories churning out effort and it produced some furious, entertaining hockey.
It was draining, too. When asked what the scales would read, compared to his pre-game weight, if he was so measured after a game-and-a-half Tuesday, Pasquale told how he turned over his skates after finally getting a chance to take them off.
“There was water pouring out them, so I guess I would be pretty light,” he said.
Paul Thompson and Alex Grant scored the other goals for the Penguins, who prevailed despite having to absorb a strange first-period goal by Jason King.
Just over five minutes into the contest, the St. John’s winger sent a puck deep into the Penguins’ zone and towards the goal. Wilkes-Barre netminder Brad Thiessen came out to play the puck with his stick and in a moment of lost concentration, had it slide past him — at such a low rate of speed that it almost seemed to be in slow-motion — and into the net.
It was one of two tough incidents Thiessen had to deal with. In the third, a stick caught him under the mask (there was no penalty) and he went to the dressing room bleeding, leaving relief duties to Scott Munroe for four and a half minutes and one shot on goal.
Thiseesen returned to the cheers of most of the 3,506 in attendance and finished the game, facing 11 shots in overtime. Wilkes-Barre outshot St. John’s 45-29 overall.
Kings’s goal had stood until Thompson knotted the score midway through a second period dominated by the home side — the Pens outshot the IceCaps 14-3 in that 20 minutes.
St. John’s didn’t suffer any further damage in the second, but early in the third, Grant came down off the blueline and took a feed as he moved between the hash marks and then ripped a shot past Pasquale.
The lead lasted less than two minutes.
Shortly afterwards, during a St. John’s power play, IceCaps defenceman Paul Postma slid to the middle along the blueline and riped a shot past Thiessen.
It would be the last goal before Despres’ marker 48 minutes of playing time later. IceCaps defenceman Jason DeSantis, playing in place of an injured Arturs Kulda, had a shot that hit metal in the first OT and Aaron Gagnon had a good chance to score early in the second overtime when he moved in front of the Penguins’ goal, but saw his shot sail up and over the crossbar. That meant a few more haymakers before Despres ended it with his one-two, shot-rebound combination and ensured the series would go back to Canada.
“We’re going home with a 3-2 lead in the series and that’s a good thing,” said IceCaps winger Maxime Macenauer, who had what was initially ruled a good first-period goal waved off when a linesmen insisted he kicked the puck in.
Not so, say the IceCaps.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the explanation,” said IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge about being told the view of a linemen further back in the zone had been given precedence over the perception of a referee positioned behind the net.
“In my opinion, it was a goal. In my opinion it was a poor call.
”But we don’t have the luxury of instant replay (in the AHL). So what are you going to do?”
Macenauer says he did make a kicking motion, but that he did touch the puck with his stick before it crossed the goal line.
“I think it was a good goal, honestly. I’m 100 per cent sure actually,” he said.
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Penguins 3, IceCaps 2 (2OT)
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — AHL playoffs Tuesday night:
1. St. John’s, King 2, 5:21
Penalties — Trotter SJs (hooking) 1:37, Grant WBS (interference) 15:13, Ramsey SJs (high-sticking) 19:02.
2. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Thompson 1 (O’Reilly, Picard) 8:12
Penalties — Postma SJs (tripping) 3:17, Pasquale SJs (roughing), DeFazio WBS (goaltender interference) 7:37, Tangradi WBS (slashing) 13:45.
3. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Grant 2 (Williams, Street) 2:18
4. St. John’s, Postma 1 (Machacek, Trotter) 4:00 (pp)
Penalty — Walker WBS (holding) 2:29.
Penalties — None.
5. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Despres 1 (Street, Tangradi) 12:08
Penalties — None.
Shots on goal by
St. John’s 7 3 8 9 2 — 29
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4 14 12 10 5 — 45
Goal (shots-saves) — St. John’s: Pasquale (L,6-3); Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: Thiessen (W,5-5)(start, 17:34 third; 28-26), Munroe (13:09 third; 1-1).
Power plays (goals-chances) — St. John’s: 1-3; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 0-3.
Referees — Marcus Vinnerborg, Geno Binda. Linesmen — Bob Goodman, Jud Ritter.
Attendance — 3,506 at Wilkes-Barre, Pa.